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How do I prepare my child with autism for the holidays?

Chantal Sicile-Kira
Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities Specialist

To prepare your child:

  • Make a social stories book about what will be happening and the behavioral expectations. If possible include photos of who he will be seeing, the house decorated during last year's holiday season. If he is going to church, do the same for that environment.
  • Play some of the music he may be hearing at this holiday season.
  • Practice unwrapping presents—wrap a bunch of boxes up with favorite treats inside and have him open them to get to them.
  • Practice a handshake if he can tolerate that.
  • Write rules together, i.e., how long he thinks he can tolerate sitting at table, and the expected behavior.

On the day of the holiday celebration:

  • Remind your child of the agreed upon rules
  • Pack some little toys he can play with in his lap at the dinner table 
  • Bring some foods he can eat, especially if he is on a specific diet.
  • Arrive early so that the noise level builds up slowly for him.
  • Do not let the expectations of others ruin your day. Do what you need to do to make it as comfortable as possible for you and your child.

Holidays can be difficult because of all the expectations, as well as the sensory challenges, but with planning and information sharing the holidays can be more enjoyable for all.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.