Holiday Tips for Children with Autism

The holiday season is upon us! You may be excited about holiday gatherings, festive decorations, elaborate meals, exchanging gifts and enjoying time and traditions with family, but all of these things can be challenging if you have a child with Autism. Kids with Autism thrive on structure and routine and, while the holidays are a wonderful time of year, it may take a little more planning and preparation for those with Autism to enjoy. Here are some tips to help you and your child have a happy holiday season:

Holiday Preparation Tips

  • Changes can be overwhelming for children with Autism, so involve your child in the process. Visit a holiday store and to see how he reacts to various decorations and allow him to help select decorations to help him get familiar.
  • Contemplate any possible aversions to flashing lights, strong smells or combinations that may trigger sensory overload.
  • Consider decorating in stages, rather than changing everything at once.
  • Stores can be crowded in the days before the holidays. If you decide to take your child shopping, make sure to plan your trip to minimize the impact on her daily schedule and discuss what the stores may look like and how much noise there will be.
  • Prepare photo albums of relatives and friends that will be visiting during the holidays. Talk about each person and allow your child to review the album in his own time.
  • Practice opening gifts and appropriate behaviors during gift exchanges.

Day of the Holiday Tips

  • Prepare a quiet place for your child to play with her gifts and toys away from other children.
  • If you are traveling, be sure to bring familiar items, such as favorite toys, foods or books. If you are flying for the first time, “practice visits” to the airport can help prepare your child for what they will experience.
  • Discuss the day’s schedule.
  • Watch your child for signs of anxiety and stress and calming techniques when necessary. Taking a walk to get a break from the busy-ness of the holiday can be very helpful.

Don’t worry, with proper planning and preparation you and your child with have a wonderful holiday season!

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