Survive the Holidays: By Ashley Flanders

Written by: Ashley Flanders, RBT

The holiday season is a time to welcome a break from our day-to-day lives, to get together with families, enjoy gift exchanges, decorate with bright lights, break out those annoying Christmas songs, and partake in rich food…all ways of celebrating that we have come to eagerly await. However, for individuals with autism, especially children, this comes with new expectations and a disruption in routines. The holiday traditions we hold dear may be a source of stress, frustration, or sensory overload for individuals with autism. Provided below is a list of general tips that may help your child feel more comfortable and get through the holidays unscathed (which the holidays are also known for!)

Care to Prepare

Knowing what to look forward for the season and/or on a certain day can help avoid stressors for you and your child, and how much preparation you engage in will depend on your child’s needs. Keep in mind what events have been a source of anxiety for them in the past and what could have helped in that situation. You could find or create a social story to read with your child that discusses what is going to happen during the holidays and what behavior is expected from all parties. You can also review a calendar with them a few days or weeks ahead of time, so they have a physical countdown of when these events are going to happen. Make it exciting and really emphasize the fun parts!

Practice for Success

Whatever your traditions are, roleplaying or using social scripts ahead of time may help the holidays run smoother. Whether opening presents, meeting Santa, or performing religious rituals, practicing can avoid catching your child unprepared and help them have a good time!

Getting to Know You

If you plan on visiting family or friends that your child has not spent a lot of time with, you may want to start easing your child into meeting them ahead of time. You can create a picture book with notes about each person to give to your child. On the other side, speaking to visitors about your child’s potential triggers, what they enjoy, and how they communicate can help visitors get to know your child better. For all parties, it may be helpful to discuss consent before touching others, to let your child know it’s okay to say “no” if they feel uncomfortable with new people and avoid embarrassing visitors if your child does not want to engage with them at first.

Plan B

Have a back-up plan for when you go out on the town, visit loved one’s homes, or are traveling. Carry a bag full of their favorite toys/activities or soothing items. Make sure you bring food that your child will eat. Before heading out, locate a safe area you and your child can go to take a break. Let people that are with you aware that you may take these breaks, and ensure them that  it is so everyone can have a positive experience.

Baby Steps

Ease your child into the season by taking gradual steps for events that may be overwhelming to them. For instance, when you begin decorating (and also taking down decorations) put only a few up every day until you build up to a perfectly merry home!

Sensory Relief

If your child has a history of being hypersensitive to certain stimuli, prepare for this as well by avoiding areas/events that may be agitating to them—for instance, holiday light shows or caroling. You can also use your “baby steps” to get them used to these experiences for the season or bring along appropriate sensory adaptive aids such as noise-reducing earphones or sunglasses.


This is for you and your kiddo! Encourage your child to communicate their needs through the holiday. Don’t feel afraid to voice to others what kind of supports and your child may require to get through the holidays.

Be safe, have fun, and happy holidays from ABA Connect!

The History of Giving Birthday Presents to Kids

Most parents in western countries celebrate their children’s birthdays by giving gifts, however, birthdays weren’t always celebrated in this way. In this blog post, we take a look at the tradition of giving gifts to celebrate birthdays, how it started, and how it differs in other nations.

Who Started the Tradition of Giving Gifts?

The act of giving gifts goes as far back as the time of cavemen, perhaps even right to the origin of our species. Of course, gifts at this time weren’t the kind of goods we’d like to receive nowadays! Cave people typically gave items from nature, such as animal teeth, perhaps with a hole in to be worn as a necklace.

Over the years, the types of gifts given has changed. Coins and herds of livestock were given as gifts in later years. Nowadays, gifts can be just about anything. For adults, it’s common to receive a household gift such as a candle, flowers or a favorite food item. Teenagers can be difficult to buy for – gifts can range from anything from gadgets and tech to make up or clothes. Great present for boys and girls on their birthday can be anything that suits them. Most commonly given gifts for children are toys and games, although clothes, chocolate and candies and things for their room.

Other Historical Birthday Traditions

In ancient Greek times, gifts were given to those celebrating their birthday as a way to get rid of evil spirits. They also used noisemakers to help scare away the bad spirits – perhaps this is where the use of party poppers to celebrate birthdays came from. In Roman times, gifts were only given to men on their birthday. Women started celebrating their birthday sometime around the 12th century.

Adding candles to a birthday cake is something else we can thank the ancient Greeks for – they started this tradition as a way to honor their gods and goddesses, however, birthday cake as we know it today was developed by Germans towards the end of the 18th century. This was the same time when ‘Kinderfeste’ first started taking place – the 18th century equivalent of a child’s birthday party.

Which Countries don’t Celebrate Birthdays?

Not all cultures celebrate their birthdays the same way. Some people, because of religious beliefs do not celebrate birthdays. Some cultures do celebrate, but with different traditions. In Russia for example, you might be given a personalized pie instead of a cake. Some cultures don’t recognize official birthdays, with many people worldwide not knowing which date or even which year they were born in.

The Future of Birthday Celebrations

Birthday customs and traditions are always changing and adapting, with many popular American customs spreading to other countries. For example, many British parents now choose to do a ‘cake smash’ with their child for their first birthday, a trend which was virtually unheard of just a couple of years ago. One thing’s for sure – birthday celebrations are set to get bigger and better as time goes on.

5 very simple tips for getting the kiddos to school on time

Getting to school on time and consistently on time can be a constant struggle for some families.  Running around the house, searching for lost articles of clothing and trying to mix something up real quick for breakfast and lunch can turn into absolute mayhem.  So, how can we all prepare for a more relaxing morning while also preparing for school?  Here are some very simple tips that can help alleviate a stressful morning so we can get our children off to school…on time!

Be prepared

Prepare for the expected!  Sometimes unexpected situations happen that are out of our reach, which is ok.  However, we can prepare for what’s expected to happen that day, right?  Do what you can the night before.  Have in mind what you might want to do for breakfast and lunch.  Make sure clothes are picked out and ready to go.  Also, try to wake up before the kids do to give you some extra time to prepare for… well whatever.  Is the car filled with gas?  Do you have everything you need to make lunch?  What’s the weather prediction for the day? Be prepared!

Get organized

Organization is an important characteristic to have in everyday life, especially when trying to get the family ready for their day.  School items and any other items that will be needed for the day should have a designated area somewhere throughout the home to promote easy access to necessary items.  Having backpacks packed and ready the night before, clothes laid out the night before, and everything needed to make a solid breakfast and lunch will only make the morning less stressful for everybody! So first, prepare, then organize!

Get into a routine

A consistent schedule should be set for weekday nights and mornings.  Try to have a set bedtime and a set time to wake-up, for everybody in the family!  This will help designate an everyday routine for everyone.  Will you pack lunches that night or in the morning before the kids wake?  It’s up to us to set our routines, so do what works best for you and your family!  Prepare, organize, and get into a routine!

Set up an environment for success

Incorporate specific items in the home that might improve on-time behavior.  For example, the addition of more clocks throughout the home could possibly help with school tardiness.  Also, being prepared, getting organized, and setting a routine will help improve an environment for success!

Reinforce on-time behavior

Reinforce behaviors you expect from your children that will promote on-time behavior.  For instance, if the family makes it to school on time for a week, maybe cook a special breakfast one morning for everybody.  Or, just letting children know they are doing a “great job” sometimes helps!  Again, do what works best for you and your family, but try to reinforce positive on-time behavior in some form or fashion!   


So to wrap up, this is really about planning and preparation, which we are all capable of doing, right?  Don’t forget to discover a schedule that will establish a consistent routine.  Last, remember to set up an environment for success and reward behaviors you wish to see.  These 5 tips should help us improve our mornings, which hopefully moving forward, should improve the rest of our day!   


J.B Hewell M.Ed, BCBA