10 tips for celebrating Easter as a family with an Autistic child

10 tips for celebrating Easter as a family with an Autistic child

Across the world, Easter is celebrated with family and friends.  It is a time for parties and family outings, Easter egg hunts, and big food festivals.

Many people also travel over the Easter long weekend and most holiday destinations are overcrowded and noisy.  Different cultures have different traditions, and each family is unique in their holiday approach.  But one thing most families with autistic children have in common is an overwhelming feeling of being stressed during the holidays.

Autism is a spectrum disorder and whilst some children on the spectrum may find it easy to adjust to change, others will find it incredibly difficult to cope with the change in routines, the traveling, crowds, and even the decorations.

So here are our top 10 tips for celebrating Easter as a family with an autistic child:

  1. Do only what work for your child – because a happy and well-adjusted child equals a happy holiday or long weekend for all. Don’t be pressured into events or functions that you know are going to cause your child anxiety.
  2. Be very aware of your child’s sensory needs because a child that has sensory issues will become overwhelmed by many of the sensory experiences related to holidays.
  3. Communicate the change to your child, and make sure that they understand what is happening and why. Prepare them for the change in their day or routine.
  4. When traveling over Easter, consider your autistic child’s routine and try to keep the days as close to their normal routines or schedules as possible. For example, try to adhere to nap times mealtimes et cetera.
  5. Plan your road trip down to the last detail – make sure you know how far you drive before you stop, how long your stops will be, and when or how mealtimes will be served during your journey.
  6. Make sure to plan for traffic congestion or longer waiting periods at roadside restaurants or bathroom stops.
  7. When doing your plan for the road trip and/or the actual Easter long weekend – stick to your child’s normal sleeping routines because the lack of sleep is in strong contributor to behavioral problems and sensory overload.
  8. With load-shedding in South Africa, you need to plan for power outages. This means planning for light in the evenings, backup batteries for devices, and alternative ways of preparing your child’s favorite meal.  During your road trip it is also important to remember that filling stations and restaurants rely on electricity to swipe for payments so make sure you travel with cash.
  9. Have a plan for how to help your child if they get too overwhelmed or if they have a tantrum or a meltdown.
  10. During your celebrations over Easter make sure to incorporate your child’s interests. Many children with autism have focused interests and parents can use these as a method of positive reinforcement during Easter festivities.
Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.