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Autism: Planning your Thanksgiving Holiday

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Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season. For many, this includes the creation of lists. There are grocery shopping lists, holiday cards lists, to-do lists and gift lists. To keep sanity and control, lists are a part of daily life. It's no wonder why children and adults with autism appreciate this sort of organizational tool as well. Among all the lists needed during this busy time, the most important are lists created to help with executive functioning and expectation. Schedules will keep the household running smooth and stress free for parents and children with special needs.

If you have access to an IPad, there are applications that can create such tools. Some suggestions are a picture scheduler or note writer (neu.notes) The picture schedule can be used with an IPhone and ITouch too. A great tool for children who need a visual. It will even alarm the user when the tasks needs to be performed. The note writer is a program that allows the user to write out their "note" on a lined or graphed screen to simulate paper. The screen can be enlarged to accomodate children with fine motor difficulties, but provide greater independence.

No IPad? A schedule or list can be created on MS word or just on plain paper. Get your child involved by asking him/her to glue pictures to each item listed. A little time now can save you a lot of time and possible meltdowns later. If travelling, include step by step expectations: Where are you going? List the tasks to be done before leaving. What time will you be leaving? If a long trip, what activities are needed during the car/plane ride? What time will you be returning? What does your child need to bring (i.e. DS, video games, crayons, coloring pages from Life is Good, games etc.)? Who will you be seeing? What will you be doing (i.e. sitting down to eat turkey, green beans etc.)? If there are special dietary concerns, make sure you include what your child will be eating. Jot down anything that will help your child feel secure.

Another helpful tip is to discuss places your child can go to regroup or if he/she is overstimulated by all the sensory input. If possible, set up a "secret" code for your child to use when he/she needs you or when they need to leave.

To help with your own organization, try printing off premade lists from Mom Agenda. Put the holiday in perspective and try to enjoy the memories made...even if it includes an over or under cooked turkey. Time together is what will be treasured.

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