It’s the Easter Bunny time again. Thoughts of egg hunts, Easter bonnet parades and celebratory fun are here once more. All the fun is magic for neurotypical kids. Sadly, for children with autism, the change of routine can cause major meltdowns. These meltdowns threaten the whole family’s fun. Simple strategies will guarantee the fun all.
At Lighthouse psychology we have worked with families for many years. Listening to parents, we have learnt some strategies that will help you and the Easter bunny have a stress-free and fun time.
These tips are simple. Sometimes strategies are so simple we forget their real value.
1.It is very important to plan in advance for the Easter celebrations.
Your child must be aware of what is going to happen and when. The trip to see the Easter bunny will need to be explained to your child many times before the actual visit. Try talking about what is going to happen during Easter at least a week before. This allows your child to develop a ‘mental map’ of events. Children without autism can make a mental map quickly. Children with autism are unable to accommodate change easily. Change causes stress. Explaining what is going to happen many times reduces stress, encourages acceptance and prevents meltdowns.
2.Use ‘social stories’ as much as possible.
Making up a story about your child’s hero being involved in egg hunts, the Easter bunny or even making hot cross buns will familiarise him or her with the theme of Easter. They will be able to identify with their hero and this will normalise the situation. Lighthouse Psychology run regular free workshops on devising social stories and there are many good books available on amazon that are useful.
3.Don’t plan too many activities.
Too many activities, however exciting will possibly overwhelm your child and result in a meltdown.
4.Always allow a calm, safe and unchanged space.
This is a space where your child can have ‘timeout’ when the excitement is beginning to overwhelm them.
5.If possible have a ‘Tag Team’
It can be really helpful to have the support of another adult who knows your child well. They can be really useful in taking your child away when the fun is becoming a little overwhelming. This allows your other children to continue the fun.
6.Take replacement food.
Many children with autism have difficulty in trying or enjoying new food. A potential ‘meltdown’ can be prevented by having a supply of your child’s normal snacks.
These simple tips can really make a fun filled Easter for all.
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist.