In a four-week series, two RDI parents and CITs, Annie Denning Hille and Vicki Parnell, will be writing about how to make the holidays more enjoyable, RDI-style. Today’s topic is previewing.

christmas-258330_1280The holidays are upon us! Short days and crisp weather, busy schedules and excitement abound. Remember when we didn’t see Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving? Not these days.
Here in North America, it seems as soon as Halloween ends, we start thinking about December holidays. Trying to fit in too many special holiday events creates stress and can set off meltdowns for apprentices (and guides!). Instead, we strive to take time to slow down, preview the upcoming excitement together, and actively involve our apprentices in the fun preparations.

Annie writes: While my husband and I often exchange digital calendar information with one another, we make time every Sunday to take the paper calendar off the wall and review the upcoming week with our children. This Sunday, the first question was, “How many days till Christmas!?” We reminded them that we will be getting out the Advent calendar on December first, and decided to count those days instead. Then, we looked at how soon Thanksgiving will arrive and talked about all the things we will enjoy together. I shared how I reserved our turkey at the market and we looked at the calendar to see when we will need to pick it up. We talked about how we will all need to work together to create the special meal. One of my sons was ready to get out the “apple-peeler-corer” that instant! He loves to help with that part of pie preparation. However, we decided that we will need to wait and agreed that we will make the pies first thing in the morning, Thanksgiving day.
His excitement to help will hopefully lead to a productive engagement, and this planning will help me remain mindful and present as we bake together. We ended this week’s calendar planning session by sharing gratitude for each other and all of our unique and special gifts.

Vicki writes: Rituals have always been one of my favorite parts of the holidays. As children, my brother and I would eagerly grab the Sears department store Christmas catalog as it arrived each year, spending hours poring over it together and making our wish lists. Today, one of my daughter’s favorite holiday rituals is baking cookies. Time spent framing and pre-planning our baking builds up happy anticipation. We peruse cookbooks and recipe websites and create a list of the cookies we want to make. We keep our focus on the process and the experience; the end result is a tasty bonus!

For my family, being able to say “no” to other, less important commitments, and focusing in on the activities that are truly meaningful is a vital part of keeping our holidays balanced and enjoyable. To bake our ambitious list of cookie recipes without stress and meltdowns, we allow plenty of time for the activity so that we can focus on “just being” together. We apply the same thinking to other cherished holiday rituals like gift shopping and wrapping, and decorating the Christmas tree. RDI has taught me to preview, plan and scaffold for the holidays, just like I do for other guiding moments.

Annie and Vicki: As we shared our holiday stories in writing this article together, we noticed the common threads of emphasizing calm, enjoyable rituals and mindfully planning family time. We realized that what is most important is having realistic expectations while also slowing down and taking time to preview the exciting events ahead. Being willing to let go of some things that are less important can help to meet the needs of both apprentice and guide.


Annie HilleAnnie Denning Hille is an RDI consultant in training in Portland, Oregon.
She and her husband are parenting two boys, ages 7 and 9. Her 9 year old is on the spectrum.
She embraces the gifts autism can bring and is thrilled to be supporting other parents and families using RDI.
She can be found at



vicki parnellVicki Parnell lives in Burnaby, British Columbia with her husband, Jeff, and their two marvelous teenagers.
She is an avid cook, a distance runner, a voracious reader, and she travels whenever she can. As an RDI consultant,
Vicki wants to empower parents as the experts on their own children,and restore a sense of hope and confidence to families affected by ASD

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