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Taking an ABA Approach with your Child to Help Lessen Holiday Stress

When a child with autism is enrolled in applied behavioral analysis treatment, it is an entirely systemic approach to their behavior. This means that the methods of teaching must be reinforced in all parts of a child’s life by any willing participants — parents, friends, and educators alongside therapists. This is because Applied Behavioral Analysis is a scientific technique that focuses on socially significant behaviors. What this really means is that while your child will be getting prescribed treatment from a therapist and specialists, this ABA approach needs to be applied in real-life settings, such as family time for the holidays.

Luckily, this creates a perfect win-win for you and your child: you can help them strengthen their ABA treatment in real-time while diminishing their stress from the busy holiday hubbub. See if you can apply any of these holiday stress-reducers this season.

Giving Gifts

How to lessen holiday stress for your child with an ABA approach

Children with autism thrive on consistency and routine. ABA creates structure around this by using prompt-response strategies revolving around everyday actions, such as eating or sleeping. These actions are typically positively reinforced, and serve as cues for growth in a child with autism.

When there is a break in routine or there are outside stressors to distract a child, certain social skills in training may break down. Large family functions can easily be triggers for challenging behaviors if there is not consistent support from parents and other family members. However, when approached correctly, they can serve as great catalysts for achieving the desired behavior prescribed by ABA therapists. Thus, this holiday season, we recommend the following:

  • Maintain a routine: Consistency is a big part of being comfortable and learning for children with autism and their ABA treatment. While you might have a normal daily routine, anticipating disruptions and distractions during the holidays will help preserve it. This might mean shifting the timing of events around, or asking for help from family members. You can also look to adjust your daily routine a few weeks before the holiday slate in order to establish a new dynamic during this part of the calendar.

Most importantly, it is crucial to communicate these plans to educators, therapists, your family, and your child. ABA techniques and the behavioral interventions that are applied focus on socially significant behaviors. This means in order to be most effective, there need to be as many positive social settings as possible for your child. A congruent plan will help with this.

  • Practice gift-giving: The holidays present opportunities to build on already existent learning skills in the midst of chaos. The learning skills your child has practiced can come into play for social interactions with other family members, as well as receiving gifts from you and them. You can even look to utilize giving gifts, receiving gifts, and proper social cues around them as components of NET (Natural Environment Teaching).
  • Be thoughtful about decorations: Environmental consistency is a big component of a child’s comfort, as well. If you suddenly change their surroundings – especially in a ‘loud’ manner that holiday decorations can take on – it can be confusing or stressful to your child.

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Conversely, it is encouraged to use ABA programming techniques to communicate the changes in advance with your child, or give them a chance to help choose. If that is not possible beforehand, at least consider how disruptive the decorations might be to your home environment, and adjust accordingly.

  • Encourage strategies to minimize stress: This tip is for you, your child, and the family you will be interacting with. Holidays can be exhausting, time consuming, and impersonal at times. It might be best to encourage your child to take a break from the action to find a familiar safe space. Similarly, if there is a favorite place for your child to go in their daily routine, you can take them there and practice learned behaviors.Finally, make it clear to your family that external sources of stress are best to avoid. This includes having a discussion about things you may know already disrupt your child- pets, other children, or aggressive behaviors.  We’ve found this a great trick for helping everyone’s mood on top of being thoughtful to a child with autism.
  • Prepare yourself and your child as much as possible: Having a plan going into the holidays is going to make it so much easier for you and your child. A big part of ABA therapy is working to reduce problem behaviors, but with the understanding that there will always be agitation that might trigger challenging behaviors.

If you go over certain scenarios or problem behaviors with your child and communicate an understanding of what is acceptable, it accomplishes multiple things. To begin with, it might prevent them from happening during the stressful holiday period, which would be ideal. However, if it does not fully mitigate them, it creates a strong foundation and teaching baseline that can be applied long-term for behavioral growth.

None of these techniques guarantee a stress-free holiday, but they should work to reduce or eliminate the most disruptive elements. When you work as a team with family, therapists, and your child to create consistency, it makes everyone’s life easier.

Thoughtful Decorations

The ABA Approach at Ally Pediatric Therapy

At Ally Pediatric Therapy, your family is our number one priority. Our approach to ABA therapy is that every child, parent, and situation is unique. Ultimately, our team is all about long-term growth and a better quality of life for you and your child.

If you are interested in beginning programming, we’d love to help reduce stress in holiday planning for years to come. Our experienced team has achieved quantifiable results for over three decades, and are always happy to start a conversation about programming. If you’re ready to take the next step in ABA therapy for your child, please reach out today.