Eid Al-Fitr is the celebration at the end of Ramadan and is a big event for muslims that can go on for three days. It involves donating to charity (Zakat Al-Fitr), new clothes, gifts, prayer and visiting family and friends.
For autistic children Eid Al-Fitr can be an overwhelming time. Autistic children are even sometimes excluded from celebrations in case of meltdown or embarrassing behaviour.
Here are some ideas to help your autistic child celebrate Eid Al-Fitr.
Salat is a difficult thing for some autistic children to join in with. Standing in lines, close to other people, following directions from the Imam and concentrating on prayer may be very hard to do for many reasons. It is especially difficult for children with limited understanding.
You could consider taking it in turns to pray, with one person staying outside with the child while the other prays and then the other family member praying by themselves afterwards.
You could consider talking to the Imam in the weeks leading up to Eid Al-Fitr, explaining your child’s needs and seeing if any concessions or special arrangements can be made. Some mosques hold special Eid prayer and celebration events for children with special needs which might be worth suggesting. At the very least, a quiet room could be provided for children that need it.
Try creating a social story for attending prayers, with clear descriptions and pictures of what will happen. You can find more information on writing social stories here.
New clothes, baths and perfume
It is traditional for children to receive new clothes as gifts and they are expected to look their best, often wearing new clothes. For autistic children this can be difficult. New clothes can feel or smell funny to children with sensory processing needs, sometimes being unbearable to wear.
Consider buying your child an outfit a few weeks in advance. Possibly something the same as favourite clothes they already own. Let them try the clothes before and keep reminding them that they will be wearing them at Eid al-fitr, so they know what to expect and have time to get used to the idea. Eliminate any sensory issues by taking out annoying labels or washing the clothes with your normal detergent. Consider letting your child layer their usual clothes underneath if possible.
For children that find bath time difficult, having a bath on the morning of Eid al-fitr may also cause problems. Be prepared for this and don’t put too much expectation on your child. Is there an alternative way they could wash and get ready?
Perfumes can be overpowering for children with sensory processing disorders. Remember this includes other members of the family wearing perfume. Consider experimenting with perfumes in the weeks leading up to the event and finding more bearable smells for your child.
Visits to Family and Friends
Events where there are a lot of people and expectations to talk to them can be overwhelming for autistic children. Be prepared for this. Consider hosting people at your own home so you have more control over what happens. Let your child dip in and out of the celebration if they need to and accept that they may need to escape to their bedroom and take a break from socialising. If you are visiting other people talk to them in advance about your child’s needs. Ask if they can provide a room where your child can escape to if they need to. Explain to relatives and friends that your child isn’t being rude if they don’t answer them and that they would prefer not to be hugged or kissed if this is the case.
If you think family visits are going to be far too much for your child, consider greeting people via skype and instead spending a calmer day with your child celebrating in your own way.
Helping your child to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr
There are plenty of ways autistic children can be helped to celebrate even if they don’t end up attending prayer or joining in with big family gatherings.
Eating favourite foods, opening gifts and being involved in giving to the poor can all still be enjoyed. If it’s all too much to do at once, spread activities out over three days and have quiet times planned in between.
Try to be flexible, preparing calm down times incase your child gets overwhelmed and keeping visits short.
Spend time with people that are aware of and understand your child’s needs.
If you know what you are going to be doing then consider making your child a timetable so they know what to expect and when and going through it with them beforehand.
Finally, I hope your Eid Al-Fitr is a good one. Eid Mubarak!
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