Preparing for Thanksgiving on the Autism Spectrum

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There's no doubt about it: Thanksgiving can be tough on everyone. Every magazine, website and radio program has a story about an underdone turkey, a mean-spirited relative or the traffic jam from hell. But even Thanksgiving can be relatively mellow if you're prepared - and if your child with autism and your family members know what to expect. The simplest tools for success include:

Practice

Kids with autism do best when they know what's coming.

This week, give your child plenty of practice with sitting at the table, eating at least a few bites of selected Thanksgiving foods, and saying hi to relatives.

AT THE SAME TIME, be sure your relatives are ready for your child. Do they know what foods he prefers? Are they aware of and okay with any special needs, behaviors, etc.?

Preparation

If you can, make a Thanksgiving picture book to show your child what to expect.

Plan B: If your child is likely to tantrum, or can only handle a couple of minutes at the table, how will you cope? Some options: bring along favorite videos and toys; assign one parent the job of taking your child outside to calm down; or bring two cars "just in case."

A Positive Perspective

Even when things are toughest, it's certain that your child has built new skills over the past year - and it's important that you, your child and your extended family recognize positive changes.

If your extended family isn't aware, you might even want to bring along photos or videos showing your child with autism doing something wonderful (dancing, playing with a sibling, or whatever you're most proud of). When you show off the pictures, be sure your child is there to enjoy his or her moment in the sun.

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