Hi BTL Fam!
Whether you’re planning a camping trip, one last pool party, or just relaxing and BBQing, the upcoming Labor Day weekend is a treat! However, holiday weekends may also mean increased anxiety, a change in schedules, and some difficult moments for your loved ones with ASD. Try utilizing some of these tips to make sure your holiday is everything it should be!
- Prepare for the day: If you plan to have a change in schedule, be sure to prepare for that change by discussing the plans a few days in advance. This may include writing it on a visual calendar, talking about where you are going, informing your child that there is going to be a different schedule, etc. By preparing, you are able to plan for any difficulties that may come along with the change. For example, you may have to plan on bringing a comfort item such as a toy or fidget. You may need to plan to leave early or come late planning on different activities occurring (i.e. loud music, fireworks, etc.) Utilize a First-Then statement before going out. Such as First we go to the BBQ, Then you can choose where we get ice cream on the way home!
- Make needed adjustments: Some individuals with ASD may need adjustments to be comfortable with new outings or places. Pack an extra pair of headphones in case there are loud noises. Provide fidgets if there is going to be a lot going on or your child needs to be seated for a long period of time. Respond positively if they request to leave or need a break. Remember that it is important to reinforce functional language such as “I need a break” or “I don’t like this”. If these phrases are emitted consider taking a 5-10 minute break or walk in a calm quiet area before returning to the festivities.
- Create a Visual Schedule: By creating a visual schedule, you will be able to aid in preparation as well as visually show what is coming next! Sometimes transitions are difficult for individuals to understand. A Visual Aid will allow the learner to see what is happening and may make it more clear as to what is coming. See an example below:
- REINFORCE, REINFORCE, REINFORCE! We want to make sure that your loved ones understand what behaviors are preferred and what aren’t. This means that we should praise anything positive that they may do. For example, if your child uses their words and says “Mommy, I don’t like this”, praise them for telling you and allow them to do something different or take a quick break from it! Another example would be if your child waves to their Aunts or Uncles when they come in, give them a high-5 for initiating communication with others. By providing praise for even the smallest of actions, your child may be more likely to engage in those behaviors again!
- Follow a Behavior Intervention Plan (if you have one!) Your consultant understands that a change in schedule may be difficult for both you and your child. Talk with your BTL team to see if there is anything you can do to be better prepared for different holidays. There may be aversive tasks that can be incorporated into a program or adjustments made to the BIP to specifically use during holidays!
You shouldn’t avoid celebrating an important holiday if it is going to be more difficult. Intertwining changes into routines often gives us an opportunity to teach how to react to new situations, and obtain the tools we need to be successful in the future. By being prepared and working through new experiences, your child has a chance to grow and access new skills they can use everyday. Never hesitate to talk to your consultant and BTL team to see if there is anything that can be incorporated into your individualized program to make your Labor Day easier!
Heidi Mann, BCBA, Outreach Consultant