6 Tips To Help Families With Autistic Kids Prepare To Enjoy Raya Together
Celebrating Raya with a child who has autism may require some additional preparation, but it is definitely possible to have a wonderful holiday.
As the joyous season of Raya approaches, families and friends gather to celebrate this special occasion.
For families with children with autism, however, the festivities may bring about unique challenges.
The change in routine, new environments, and sensory stimuli can sometimes overwhelm children with autism, leading to meltdowns or sensory overload. But fear not, with some thoughtful preparation and understanding, you can ensure a wonderful Raya holiday for your child with autism and your whole family.
1. Use visual plans
Visual plans can be a powerful tool in helping your child with autism understand and prepare for the upcoming Raya activities. You can create visual plans in the form of pictures, videos, or text, depending on your child's preferences and abilities.
Go through the visuals with your child before and during the actual event to provide a constant reminder and help manage their expectations. Visual plans can include pictures or videos of car rides, traffic jams, new faces, unfamiliar places, food, and decorations, as well as firework noises and other sensory experiences.
By using visual plans, you can help your child better understand what to expect and reduce anxiety.
2. Try to maintain some of the same routines
While Raya festivities may disrupt your child's usual routines, try to maintain some familiar routines for your child with autism. For example, stick to your child's regular bedtimes, meal times, and bath times as much as possible. This will provide a sense of predictability and familiarity for your child amid the new routines of Raya.
Some children with autism thrive on sameness and routine, and maintaining familiar routines can help them feel more comfortable and secure during the holiday season.
3. Prep a 'comfort pack'
Having a 'comfort pack' ready can be a lifesaver during Raya festivities. Fill a backpack with items that your child can easily shift their attention to when they are feeling overwhelmed. These items can include favourite toys, books, snacks, sensory items like slime or stress balls, or anything that your child finds calming or enjoyable.
Having a 'comfort pack' handy can provide a distraction and help your child self-regulate when unexpected situations arise, such as long car rides, loud noises, or staying in an unfamiliar environment for a long time.
4. Plan an 'escape route'
It's essential to have a designated 'escape route' during Raya celebrations. This can be a quiet room at home or a designated spot outside the house, such as your car or a nearby park, where your child can go to relax and regulate their emotions when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Make sure this 'escape route' is free from triggering Raya elements according to your child's needs; such as loud music, crowds, bright decorations, or others. Having a designated calming space can provide your child with a safe retreat when the sensory inputs of Raya become overwhelming for them.
5. Prep your friends and relatives
Preparation and communication are key when it comes to helping your child with autism navigate Raya festivities. Talk to your friends and relatives ahead of time and let them know about your child's specific needs and your plans.
Educate them about autism and how certain things may affect your child's behaviour and responses to the environment. Ask for their support and understanding, and let them know that it will make the experience better for everyone.
Some friends and relatives may be willing to accommodate and make adjustments to ensure a more inclusive and enjoyable celebration for your child with autism.
6. Be okay with making the best out of the worst
If your child reacts badly to certain stressors, BE OKAY about your child displaying behaviors with these unfamiliar new routines. If your child is affecting others, BE OKAY to excuse yourself to go to a room or car with your child calmly, take the time you need, try the tips above, then return to the group when your child is ready.
Don't be hard on yourself that your child needs to look okay throughout. At the end of the day, you know what your child needs best.
In conclusion, celebrating Raya with a child who has autism may require some additional planning and preparation, but it is definitely possible to have a wonderful holiday with your families and friends
By using the tips above, you can create a positive and inclusive experience for your child. Remember, every child with autism is unique, and it's important to prioritise their needs and wellbeing while also enjoying the festivities.
With patience, understanding, and support from loved ones, you can make lasting memories during the Raya holiday season that will be cherished for years to come.
Selamat Hari Raya!
Low Ree Ta is the co-founder and director of Miles Autism Academy.
This story is a personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the position of SAYS.
If you'd like to submit an article, email us at [email protected]
Click here to learn more about autism!