How to Survive the Holidays with ADHD or Autism

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Do you ever wish you or your child could take a holiday from ADHD  or autism?  If only this were the case, but quite often it is the exact opposite during the holidays. I don’t know about your child, but my son gets amped up during the month of December and his symptoms reach a crescendo on the big day. It is a normal reaction for any kid or for that matter, adult, to get excited during the holidays but it may be particularly challenging for a child with ADHD or autism to not let that excitement turn into anxiety or even a meltdown.


    Here are some tips to help you and your child survive the week ahead:

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    A visual schedule can help the child who feels anxious during the holidays. There are many creative ways you can make such a schedule. Some of the best resources I have found come from personal blogs written by parents such as this blog where the mom describes how to make a Christmas countdown calendar. There are also interactive on-line advent calendars such as this one from Woodland Trust.


    A simple way to create a calendar is to use photos or drawings of activities you plan to do each day leading up to Christmas. This way your child knows what to expect and this will hopefully decrease some of that anxiety.


    Think carefully about the timing and pacing of opening presents. If you get a lot of presents from relatives for your child, you may want to consider having your child open some presents early in the week. I have found that if we leave all presents to be opened on Christmas morning it is too much to handle. But if we spread out the presents through the week, my son has more opportunity to appreciate the gift and play with it. If the presents are all opened at once there is a tendency to toss some aside as he frantically opens each package and then there is anxiety over what to play with first. Pacing the opening of presents allows for a more calm time.


    If your child is on a special diet like my son, you are going to have to be super vigilant during the holidays because so many people like to bring food. Or you may go visiting where relatives and friends have treats your child cannot have. This is a good time to talk to friends and relatives about your child’s diet and to make sure you have treats on-hand that your child is able to eat. As gluten-free products are more in the mainstream it is no longer difficult to find pre-made baking mixes even at your grocery store. Even Betty Crocker has entered into the fray and currently offers four types of gluten-free baking mixes but of course you want to check all the ingredients to make sure the mix does not contain any additional ingredients your child may be sensitive or allergic to.


    Give your child a physical outlet to work off their extra energy during these chaotic days. Sometimes we try to find an indoor swimming pool which is open early in the week to give my son something different to do than climbing the walls indoors. There are also those activity centers for kids which offer all the blow up bounce houses and slides so that your children can jump to their heart’s content. If you are stuck indoors, an indoor trampoline, nerf toys, or a simple game of hide and seek can burn off some of that energy.


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    Don’t forget your child’s medication schedule during this busy time. In the frenzy of visiting friends and relatives or engaging in holiday activities, it can be too easy to forget to give medication on schedule. It is also easy to forget the medication at home if you are traveling as one of our members found out. If you have trouble remembering your child’s medication schedule there are tons of apps out there which will sound an alarm or vibrate to remind you such as this pill reminder app from Verizon.


    If you have any holiday tips to share with us we would love to hear them. We will get through this week, I promise. And hopefully we will have fun in the process. Happy Holidays everyone!

Published On: December 20, 2010