Holiday parties and celebrations at school can cause a disruption in the normal routine, which can be stressful for individuals with autism. Some activities that might be fun and exciting for typically developing peers, can really throw our students off and may even cause increased disruptive behavior.
For example, I had a kindergarten student who knew his routine well and was thriving. We didn’t really think he would have trouble on “party day”. It happened to be a Valentine’s Day party. He walked into the classroom, saw the pink and red paper covering all of the tables and BOOM…instant stress and instant meltdown. We felt so bad because we had ASSUMED he would go with the flow. This was our mistake.
Always do you best to prepare autistic students for change…even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. Even if it seems like a fun change.
How do you prepare a student for change?
- Create a simple social story that talks about the things that will (or might) be different.
- Create a more detailed visual schedule to show how the schedule will be different.
- Label different tables/area in the classroom that will be used for the party and put together a visual checklist for your student to follow
You can be sure that our team was proactive and prepared that student for the next class party. He knew what to expect and by doing that we took away the “shock factor” and reduced his stress level. Win-win if you ask me! Talk to your team today and brainstorm how you can prepare your students for any changes to their schedule/routine for upcoming celebrations!