Dr. Grace Gengoux is a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) with expertise in the clinical evaluation and behavioral treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
With the holidays upon us, we asked AbilityPath guest expert Dr. Grace Gengoux to provide us with tips on topics families frequently ask about during the holidays. If you have a tip to share, enter a comment below or post a question or concern you have for the approaching holidays and we will do our best to respond to all.
Changes to Routines and Schedule
The holidays bring many adjustments to school and home schedules. Winter breaks have students out of their Monday through Friday routines and at home or in day care environments for extended hours. Visiting family members or holiday travel can also cause disruptions to daily routines at home. These changes are inevitable and are part of the fun of the season, but can be a struggle for some children with special needs. However, with some advance work we can help children transition through the new schedules for an enjoyable vacation. I often recommend the following when families know there are going to be extended breaks or interruptions to their child’s daily routines:
- Develop a predictable schedule. Work with your teachers or specialists to plan ahead to maintain a schedule once school is out. Try to come up with activities that are similar to your child’s familiar schedule.
- Consider visual supports. For children who have more difficulties with transitions and change overall, a visual schedule for the new routine may help the child understand what to expect next in the day. Children who are accustomed to visual schedules at school or in therapy may find this familiar approach particularly helpful.
- Prepare and communicate. For instance, the week or two before winter break starts begin counting down on a calendar and making the change seem exciting by giving your child something to look forward to like, “Tommy in 4 days school will be closed for the holidays and we are going to start a special new game.” Continue this type of communication up until the new schedule starts. Selecting either a new or preferred activity to do on the first day of the holiday vacation can help a child adjust to the new routine.