Four Ways to Prepare for Extended Family Visits

With the holidays right around the corner, we wanted to provide some helpful ideas to prepare for family gatherings. Having extended family visits can bring joy for both parents, caretakers and the child themselves. Unfortunately, it also has the potential to ignite certain difficulties for those with Autism including noise, unfamiliar routines, travel, unfamiliar family members and unfamiliar interactions. All of this unfamiliarity has room to cause behaviors and stress for the child and caretaker alike. Preparation ahead of time for the child with Autism and for other family members is crucial for a relaxing visit. Here are some ways to prepare in advance for extended family visits:  

  1. Provide social stories and visual supports:
    1. Social stories and along with visual schedules can help your child prepare for unfamiliar routines, travel and unfamiliar interactions. This will give your child insight into the new routine, provide practice opportunities and give them ways to cope if they do become overwhelmed.
  2. Prepare extended family:
    • Giving your extended family tips on how to interact with your child and ways they can help you prepare such as having visual supports ready in a new environment, toys or food that will make your child comfortable. This can provide support for yourself and your child and help extended family to prepare for the visit as well.
  1. Practice new routines as much as possible:
    • Providing more practice for your child to visit unfamiliar houses and people will help them gain skills to be able to visit extended family and varying environments.
  1. Delegate and remember self-care:
    • Sometimes as a caretaker or family member, you may be thinking of the child and not preparing yourself as needed for the family visit. Make sure to take care of yourself and engage in some self-care to make the preparations and visit enjoyable for you as well. Remember, many people want to help but they don’t know how. Delegating your tasks to other family members or friends can also help take the stress off of the visit for you and your child.