How to make Memorial Day Traditions not Memorial Day Tortures for you and your child with Autism
A unique perspective from an insider on how to make your Memorial Day a pleasant memory, with the help of your child with autism.
- Fast forward to present times...
- The keyword is PLANNING!
- Tips to Follow
- Pack it up
- Relax and Enjoy!
Memories of past Memorial Day celebrations fill me with joy! Growing up, my siblings and I took it for granted that there would always be a huge family and friends gathering in our parents’ backyard. We would always have barbecues to visit of friends in the neighborhood; swimming, bike riding, relaxing and a lot of laughter and joking around. We would celebrate the beginning of summer every Memorial Day and then count down the days left in June until we were free of school and homework! What a life!
Fast forward to present times...
As my son grew, the Memorial Day Traditions became Memorial Day Tortures! I dreaded Memorial Day and the crowds of family and friends, the way you dread the dentist when you need a root canal. Here are some tips to make the transition for you and your child with autism, much easier then mine.
The keyword is PLANNING!
You need to make sure that you plan EVERYTHING! You also need to plan for ANYTHING! I know, you’re not a psychic and you can’t tell the future but if you are sensitive to how your child responds in other situations, then that’s the best way to try and predict what would make Memorial Day easier and happier for everyone involved.
Tips to Follow
1. The month before, begin organizing your thoughts around what Memorial Day typically looks like for your family. Jot down notes, when you find the time, in a little notebook that you carry in your pocket. (I usually try to do this in the bathroom or when my son is involved in playing with his Legos).
2. Sit down and write a social story about your Memorial Day, including pictures of family members and the places you typically go. This doesn’t have to be fancy ~ you can use construction paper, snapshots, markers and glue but keep in mind that you will be using this with your child for several days; so you might want to use something sturdier than this. Keep it simple! For instance, you can have a page that says “When Grandmom opens the door; I walk through and give her a hug and a kiss on her cheek.” Place a picture of your child’s Grandmom at the top of the page. Click on Carol Gray for more information on how to write your social story.
3. Call several weeks ahead to chat with your parents/family about the menu. Be prepared to share with them what type of environment you need. Do you need a quiet place in another room? Do you need a special type of food due to your child’s food allergies? Do you need a portion of the grill just for chicken burgers so your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction? Is your child a runner and you need help making sure he doesn’t run and get injured? Engage your family/parents and ask for their support in concrete ways. Only you and your spouse know what your child needs in order to make Memorial Day successful and a supportive extended family will help out tremendously if given the proper directions from you.
4. The week prior to Memorial Day, act out some of the social situations your child will find himself in, involving your son and husband to make it more realistic. At this time, you should begin going over the social story you wrote with your child approximately once a day.
Pack it up
The week of Memorial Day, get your Memorial Day Bag together.
This bag will include:
a. Any medications your child may need if exposed to an allergen or medications he
takes on a daily basis.
b. Sensory objects that you typically use to help calm your child.
c. Cds and a cd player with headphones with calming music.
d. 2 changes of clothes for your child.
e. Bug spray and sun block
f. Any snack foods that your child enjoys and any other object that your child depends on daily to comfort him.
g. Don’t forget to pack some toys that you can place in the quiet room so he can play quietly in the room while outside the room is too overwhelming.
h. Pack an interesting book or magazine for yourself and don’t forget your cell phone. Texting a trusted friend if you end up in the quiet room with your child and venting will help to calm your nerves.
Relax and Enjoy!
The morning of the Big Day, prepare a typical breakfast for your child. Keep your normal routine until an hour before you need to get in the car. At the beginning of this hour, begin packing your car and encourage your child to help you. He can help by handing you the objects that are right next to you or carrying them to the car with you. Perhaps you can have your husband pack the car and you and your child can continue your normal routine until it is 15 minutes prior to leaving. At this time, you should remind your child about what is about to take place. Read your social story together and hop in the car.
Make sure you arrive at least 1-2 hours earlier then the extended family and friends, so you can situate the quiet room and your child. This will also give you time to relax a little before the ‘fun’ begins.
After all your pre-planning and hard work, try to relax and enjoy yourself. Before you know it, your Memorial Day will be over and you will once again have memories of happy traditions that include you and your child.