Holidays and gifts go hand in hand, but for many children with special needs, particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), the appropriate social skills around gift giving and receiving do not come naturally. Helping a kid understand why it is important to say “thank you”, even if he liked another gift better, can be especially tricky for a child who doesn’t truly understand how his behavior makes other people feel. On the other side, helping children learn not to tell the recipient of the gift what is underneath the wrapping paper or in the gift bag is also just as valuable of a social skill to hone during this season of giving.
I recommend practicing with your child leading up to the gift exchange. Practice both giving and receiving and simple language, like “thank you for the present,” for the child to use during the actual event. AbilityPath found a gift giving social story that might be useful in practicing with your child. The social story is compliments of HANDS in Autism, which is a part of the Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, a comprehensive hospital-based and university affiliated autism treatment center engaging in clinical research and outreach activities in the state of Indiana.
The holidays can be stressful because they involve so many new things to manage: new schedules, new destinations or visitors, new behaviors and social skills, not to mention all the other holiday related to-dos that often fall into the laps of parents. Preparation is key for helping you stay calm and helping your child know what to expect. Most importantly trust your parental instinct, you know your child best. Hopefully some of the tips shared here will help you plan an enjoyable vacation! I also encourage parents to talk to other families to share tips and ideas because there is nothing better than a tried and true recommendation from someone who has “been there.”
Holiday Gift Guide by Bloggers of Children with Special Needs
Making the Most of the Holidays for Your Family and Son/Daughter with Autism
Five Things that Contribute to Stress and Ways to Manage Them