The Autism Society of Florida is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Our board of directors are all volunteer parents of people with autism and adults with autism. We are an affiliate of the Autism Society of America. For 34 years, we have been working to ensure full participation and self-determination in every aspect of life for people across the autism spectrum. We work every day to empower lives by opening avenues of self-advocacy and advocating on behalf of others in a way that values equity, respect, dignity and diversity in all communities.
2023 Holiday Season
While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season, families of people on the autism spectrum also understand the special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and routines broken.
Our hope is that by following these few helpful tips, families may lessen the stress of the holiday season and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Don’t stress. Plan in advance. And most of all have a wonderful holiday season!
1. Preparation can be crucial for many. You can prepare in various ways by using a calendar and marking the dates of various holiday events, or by creating a social story that highlights what will happen at a given event.
2. Decorations around the house may be disruptive for some. It may be helpful to revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house. For some it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process and involve them in the process of decorating the house.
3. Changes can feel disruptive. If a person with autism has difficulty with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house. Engage them as much as possible in this process. It may be helpful to develop a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day.
4. Practice calming strategies. Practice ahead of time how to leave a
situation and/or how to access support when an event becomes
overwhelming. Set up a safe/calm space with soothing items.
5. Are you traveling for the holidays? If so, make sure you have their
favorite foods, books or toys available. Having familiar items readily
available can help to calm stressful situations. Also, prepare them
via social stories or other communication systems for any unexpected
delays in travel. If you are flying for the first time, it may be helpful to
bring the individual to the airport in advance and help him/her to become accustomed to airports and planes. Use social stories and pictures to rehearse what will happen when boarding and flying.
6. Photos are helpful. Prepare a photo album in advance of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the holidays. Allow the person with autism access to these photos at all times and also go through the photo album with him/her while talking briefly about each family member.
7. Practice gift giving and traditions. Take some time to practice taking turns and waiting for others, and giving gifts. Role play scenarios with your child in preparation for him/her getting a gift they do not want. You might also choose to practice certain religious rituals.
8. Talk ahead of time with family and friends. Keep it simple. Prepare family members for strategies to use to minimize anxiety or behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation. Help them to understand if the person with autism prefers to be hugged or not, needs calm discussions or provide other suggestions that will facilitate a smoother holiday season. In the event that the person with autism becomes upset, it might also be helpful to coach others to remain calm and neutral in an effort to minimize behavioral outbursts.
9. Plan for any special foods or preferences. If the person with autism is on special diet, make sure there is food available that he/she can eat.
10. Enjoy! Above all, reduce stress as much as possible. Keep in mind how much noise and other sensory input they can tolerate. If you detect that a situation may be becoming overwhelming, help them find a quiet area in which to regroup. There may be some situations that you simply avoid (e.g., crowded shopping malls). Keep in mind those things that will make the season more enjoyable for them.
We are fueled by passion and the desire to empower every person with autism and their families. People with autism have unique gifts and can contribute to their communities in many ways. We're fortunate to have them in our lives. The best advocacy occurs with education, respect and the presumption of competence for all.
To learn more about our initiatives click the link below.
PREMIER FIRST RESPONDER TRAINING
ASF provides autism training for police officers and other first responders with information and life saving techniques to assist in encounters between professionals and children and adults with autism.
Training includes recognizing the signs of ASD, handling behavioral challenges, de-escalation strategies, elopement issues, helpful resources and much more.
COMMUNITY AND LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY
Our board advocates for and contributes to crafting legislation to protect, empower and improve the quality of life for people with autism in all aspects of life. We forge relationships with legislators as well as people in our communities to educate, inform and create awareness about the needs of individuals with autism in Florida.
Drowning is the #1 cause of death in autism and Florida leads the way in child drownings resulting in death. Kids with ASD are 160 times more likely to experience nonfatal and fatal drowning than their neurotypical peers. The Autism Society of Florida provides swim lesson scholarships that help to save lives. Training in autism is provided to water safety instructors to prepare them for teaching necessary skills to children and adults with autism.
PARENT SUPPORT GROUPS
Our kids don’t come with a special manual or born to parents who have a certain set of skills. We learn as we go. Sometimes we figure things out fairly quickly, and sometimes it takes years of hard work and perspiration. If we try to do it all alone, or feel that we’ve been abandoned by those we once counted on, life can easily begin to feel as though it’s impossible. Join our support group.