BIG FAMILY GATHERINGS WITH AN AUTISTIC CHILD
Family gatherings have become a shared tradition of many cultures and nations around the world. On special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, housewarming and baby arrival, it is a common understanding that close relatives from both sides of the family will come and stay at your own home for a certain period of time. We also expect our relatives to come over on important dates, such as the Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and any other big calendar events. They may pay a visit on their own willingness and choice, or get notified through a phone call and other written formal invitation. In celebrations such as these, you may have to expect a huge number of people to come into your house, which can be a source of stress for your autistic child.
Of course, we all want to make every big gathering as joyful and memorable as possible, made evident in the choices of food we would serve at the table and the changes in home decors we try to fit into the theme or event. But with the existing autism condition of your child, anticipating these gatherings to go as smooth and successful like we want it may not be achieved quite easily. People on the autism spectrum are easily overwhelmed by the presence of new faces and the idea of socializing with them. Relatives, especially those who are distant and not particularly often seen, are not exempted from the autistic person’s point of view. Luckily, there are proven solutions that you can try in order to make your family gathering stress-free and worry free not only for your autistic child but for the whole folks as well.
Explain to your relatives about the child’s condition
When it comes to sensitive issues such as autism diagnosis, your family relatives can be your source of strength and guidance. If your child has been recently diagnosed with autism, and the reunion plan is just around the corner, the best thing to do is to open up about the issue and let your visiting relatives know about it beforehand. Trying to hide this matter will only get the autistic child misunderstood by your folks, especially on specific autism behaviours that may be misinterpreted negatively. Some of your relatives might already have knowledge about autism, which in turn can help you disclose this fact more effectively to others who still don’t have a clue about what this condition really is. Tell them about evident features that the child may exhibit so that your visiting relatives can act appropriately to it and not be taken aback. If the autistic person just hurriedly runs toward the corner or closes their ears or eyes during dinner time, indicate to your relatives that these are just manifestations caused by sensory issues. If your folks begin to fully understand the nature of the child’s condition, you might be surprised just how sincere they can be in showing their concern and support.
Introduce the relatives’ brief profile to your autistic child early on
Much like how you inform your relatives about your child’s autism diagnosis beforehand, it is also important that you provide your child with a short information about those visiting relatives whom they may have seen only on very few occasions, or never before. This will not only reduce your child’s anxiety about their arrival, it will also give them a sense of familiarity with your folks. Show them photo albums both recent and old ones to have them follow your history with these people. If your stories are interesting enough for your child, they may even look forward to meeting their relatives. Social media sites such as Facebook can also be a big help in giving your child a bit of idea whom they are about to greet and welcome into their home in the next day or two.
Train your child for some necessary changes
The visitation of your relatives may cause unavoidable changes to happen in your home setting. Because autistic individuals can have difficulties in adjusting to these changes, it might be better to train your child weeks prior to the set date. Temporary room accommodations, the use of bathroom and toilet, as well as the use of TV and computer are just some of the important things that can easily affect their routine. Start sleeping together with them in your room, and gradually lessen TV and computer time weeks before the actual occasion so that your child will have lesser issues in accommodating their visiting relatives.
Ask other children to be understanding and friendly
If your child has other young cousins, it would be ideal to tell them the right way to interact with your child and bring up to you any problem that they don’t know how to deal with. Emphasize that your child needs friends, and ask them politely to invite your child to their games as long as it does not involve too much sensory input. This can greatly help increase your child’s confidence in interacting with other children, and how they can place themselves properly in social situations. However, if your child reacts negatively to this, make sure to let the other kids know that it’s not their fault.
Delegate one or more persons to keep an eye on your child
Knowing that your home is going to be a host for your special reunion, you should expect yourself to be very busy with many things during that time. You might need to constantly go to the convenient store or supermarket for additional groceries, or you might be requested to accompany your folks for a tour of the city or a special tourist destination in your area. These situations could mean that you have to leave your child in the house, so don’t forget to ask someone else first to keep a close watch on your child while you are not around. You should ask another adult and avoid delegating this task to another young teen or kid.