10 Holiday Hiccups – and how to prevent them

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10 Holiday Hiccups – and how to prevent them

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By Raun K. Kaufman Director of Global Education Autism Treatment Center of America
Ah, the holidays. Special meals. Special family gatherings. And, of course, our special children! Oftentimes, we just barrel through the holidays, hoping for the best – but not taking the time and focus to make sure this celebratory time really feels like a celebration for us and for our children on the Autism Spectrum. Most of us find ourselves unwitting participants in at least one of the 10 Holiday Hiccups. We know we’re in a hiccup when our special child is having more meltdowns. When our extended family members appear uncomfortable or at a loss. Or when we, ourselves, feel stressed out or burned out. We may blame the hectic holidays, but, in reality, it’s not the holidays causing the difficulty; it’s the pitfalls we mistakenly step in. This is great news because it means that our challenges are preventable! Take a look below at the 10 Holiday Hiccups – and How to Prevent Them. You’ll be thanking yourself from now till New Year’s!

Stopping Your Child From Isming (“Stimming”)

Given the commotion and routine-change of the holidays, this is the most important time for our children to be allowed to self-regulate and cope with their environment. We know that isming is crucially important to our children and their nervous systems. Ideally, of course, we would join our children in their isms. But even during the times over the holidays when we aren’t able to do this, we can still let our children do their thing. When we do this, everybody wins!

Feeding Your Child “Crash & Burn” Foods

Yes, it’s the holidays. Sugary, wheat-filled, dairy-crazy foods abound. It can be tempting to allow our children to partake in this glorious cornucopia. We might think it will be easier to just let them have it this once. Let me assure you: it will not be easier! There are a host of foods that we know are not going to be processed well by our children. Yes, the first few minutes of allowing them to eat whatever is around might seem easier. But a few minutes later…it’s crash & burn time. The melt-downs, overeating, challenging behavior, and diarrhea that will result are truly not worth it. Taking the forethought to either keep these foods away from our children or – better yet – not have them around at all will make the whole holiday experience a million times easier.

Surprising Your Child

Sometimes, we can be so busy planning and getting ready for a holiday outing (e.g. going to grandma’s) or project (e.g. putting up the Christmas tree) that we forget to notify a crucial participant: our special child. Although our intention is not to surprise our children, this is often what happens when we depart on an outing or embark on a project without explaining everything that will happen to our children in advance. Even for our non-verbal children, explaining ahead of time what will happen and why it will be fun for them will go a long way toward minimizing tantrums and maximizing cooperation.

Leaving No Way Out

It is very common to go to someone else’s house for a holiday celebration. Usually, we just take our child and hope for the best, thinking that we don’t have a lot of control over the matter. But we do! We can designate, in advance, a calm room or space where our child can go to decompress once they begin to be overwhelmed by all of the commotion and sensory input that comprise most celebrations. Every so often, it can really help to take our child to this room and spend some time alone with him or her.

Focusing On Stopping Challenging Behaviors

Most of us dread our children behaving in a challenging way. We worry about it, we look for it, and we try to stop it as soon as it happens. Ironically, this puts all the focus on what we DON’T want from our children. If we don’t want our children to hit, for instance, focusing on “not hitting” can actually create more hitting. Instead, we can celebrate our children every time they do something we do want. If we have a child who sometimes hits, it can make a huge difference to actively look for any time our child is at all gentle – and then cheer wildly!

Giving An Over-Stimulating Present

Sure, we derive great joy from the experience of giving presents for our children. But when it comes to our special children, we want to be especially cognizant of what type of present we give. If we give a present with flashing lights and loud beeps, we’re asking for challenging behavior later. Let’s take some time to sincerely consider whether the gift we are about to give is going to contribute to the over-stimulation of our children with sensitive sensory systems.

Leaving Our Children Out Of The Giving Process

We always consider our special child when purchasing gifts. But do we think of our special child as a potential giver of gifts? Thinking of other people – what they want, what we could do for them – is an essential element of the socialization that we want our children to learn. The holidays provide the perfect opportunity for this! We can schedule sessions with our special child in advance where we help them create something for one or more of the people in his or her life. (These gifts and activities can range from very simple to more complex, depending on our particular child’s level of development.) Then, on the day of gift-giving, we can invite our special child to present (as best he or she can) any gifts that he or she has made.

Expecting Your Family To “Get It”

Many of us may, at times, feel frustrated with members of our extended family for not being more understanding and responsive when it comes to our special child. But, remember, if our extended family members don’t live with our child, they won’t “get it.” When taking our special children on visits to extended family for holiday visits, we can send e-mails to them explaining what they can do to make the visit comfortable for us and our child. We can take this opportunity to explain why sudden loud noises might be problematic, or tell everyone the answer our child likes to hear when he or she asks the same question over and over. This way, we stack the deck in our child’s favor. Thinking That Activities Need To Happen Outside Your Home We know that children on the Autism Spectrum will always do better when they are not over-stimulated by the many sights, sounds, smells, and unpredictable events of the outside world. So, we can create experiences in our homes that we would normally go out for. For instance, instead of going to an evening parade with a festival of lights, we can put Christmas or Hanukkah lights around the house, turn off all the lights, and play holiday music at a gentle volume. Some of us might be concerned about depriving our children of fun holiday experiences, but keep in mind that when our children can’t digest the experience, they’re not having the fun experience we want for them, anyway. That’s why, if we can create a digestible version of the outing at home, our children can really take in and enjoy the experience. Thus, we are actually giving our children more, not less. Seeing the Wrapping Instead of the Gift So often, we get caught up in the trappings of the holidays – the tree, the presents, the outings that have to go exactly as planned. It’s okay to arrange fun things, but remember that these are only trimmings. They aren’t the gift, they’re just the wrapping. The gift is our special child. The gift is sharing sweetness with the people we love. Instead of using the holidays as a planning fest, we can use it to see the beauty in our child’s uniqueness, to celebrate what our child can do, and to feel and encourage compassion for our child’s very different way of experiencing the world.

Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid

 

Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,

Jackline

 

Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar

 

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