Here are some tips for Autistic people who want to conserve spoons while still spending time with loved ones this holiday season.
- If you must go shopping, be prepared for busy crowds and everything that goes with the season: people ringing bells, holiday music blaring, crowded places, people talking loudly, loud noises, busy streets, hectic stores, etc.
- Know what you need to get ahead of time. Make a list and know where you’re going to get each item and know what order you’re going to go in. Try to visualize where in each store each item will be. This will ensure that you spend the least amount of time in difficult environments as possible.
- Load phrases into your tablet, iPad, or other communication device ahead of time based on what you might need to say while you are shopping. Try to imagine what you might need to communicate and do while you are there.
- Know where there are quiet places to calm down where you are going. Planning ahead will help you to find a safe spot quickly when you need it.
- Bring someone with you who knows your needs and can help you get through the process of shopping if you become overwhelmed, confused, or distracted. They can also help you communicate if you lose speech or if you don’t want to use or are having trouble using your communication device.
- Bring whatever you might need to get through the store. This might include your headphones, ear plug, a favorite stuffed animal, etc.
- Bring a snack and things to help you calm down, just in case you become overwhelmed.
- No matter what happens, congratulate yourself for a job well done. It isn’t easy to go holiday shopping and you managed to do it.
- To prepare for the holidays, get together all the things you might need. Make sure you have whatever to need on hand: your communication device, a favorite stuffed animal, a calming glitter bottle, headphones, earplugs, music player, fidget toys, etc.
- Keep the things you need somewhere where you will be able to access them easily. You can put them in a special spot or you can even keep them in a bag on your person.
- Set aside a spot where you can take breaks when you need to. Keep whatever you’ll need to help you calm down in that area. You might want to place things there that are soothing to you. Perhaps, items to make a cup of tea, something you enjoy looking at (maybe a calming glitter bottle or a bubble timer?), a lavender satchel to smell, a favorite stuffed animal, something soft to hold, a weighted blanket, etc.
- Take some time to put together a schedule for the holidays. As well as you can, approximate what the holiday routine will be like. You can even ask others to help you put this schedule if they know more about what will be going on over the holidays. Keep this schedule on hand to refer to as needed.
- Take your time to preload words and phrases you’ll need into your tablet, iPad, or other communication device. Doing this ahead of time will make it easier for you to communicate in the moment when it is likely to be much more chaotic and more difficult to put words together.
- Take care of yourself and take breaks when you need to. It’s okay to step aside for some time in order to make sure you can make the most of the holidays.
- If you feel a meltdown or shutdown coming on, do not push your limits. Accept that you need to take some time to soothe yourself. You can tell someone you trust that you need to take some time away from the busyness, and then go do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
- Use the resources you created ahead of time as a safety net to catch you if you are not feeling your best.
- After the holidays, be sure to take time to de-stress.
- Don’t worry about those dishes or putting stuff away or cleaning up. It can wait until you have your spoons back. Go rest. Take a nap, or watch a movie, read a book, or do some other calming activity to take care of yourself.
- Remember to eat and to drink a lot of water. Stay nourished and hydrated to get your energy back.