Surviving the Holidays with Your Child with Autism

by | Last updated Jan 25, 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This year the holiday season will be different and challenging in its own way. But, here’s some possible good news… surviving the holidays with a child on the autism spectrum may be easier this year

Clear Child Psychology’s Dr. Anna Kroncke explains why. And, we’ve got some ideas to make this year special no matter what!

I was talking to a family the other day, and we were discussing ways to allow their children to create new activities or traditions this year, and allowing them to feel sad if this year meant certain activities would be missed. The dad mentioned that he actually thought this year could be fantastic. There would be fewer expectations and perhaps fewer trials and tribulations. We talked about the yearly traffic jam as their family attempted to make the 1.5 hour commute to have Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. “Last year it took us 4 hours,” he shared. “The kids will not miss that time in the car!” 

Many children on the Spectrum do not love change or chaos, and the holiday season can be just that. The pressure of one or two big days with family, food, gifts, activities can be overwhelming. We have tended to think about setting a predictable schedule, giving time to decompress, and setting lower expectations to relieve some of the pressure. Frequently, parents of kids on the Spectrum have to plan the holidays differently, which can mean added stress for everyone.

For kids with autism, there will be many large gatherings that are cancelled this year and that may not be so bad. The routine for the week around Thanksgiving or New Years may be less of a change in schedule with less travel and less anticipation. Maybe this is a good thing!”

Way to Make This Year Special

It is important to plan some special time and special events for your child. Be it baking, craft activities, or outdoor visits to look at the lights in your neighborhood, plan some special family time. Create new traditions, and have your child be a part of this.

If your child is able, have a family meeting where everyone can brainstorm ideas to make this year’s holiday different and special. One idea is to plan some special activity on This site offers classes and activities from art, dance, music to wellness and meditation that your child can sign up for to have a special experience. They could learn with peers about zoology, take a Harry Potter cooking course, or study sign language. Plan now so that when Thanksgiving comes around, even if you are still at home, there is something fun to make the day or week special. 

If your child is really bummed about missing those family traditions, travel, and visits with extended family, make some time to process feelings and recognize the disappointment. Communication, understanding and working together to make things better are the best medicine. Here, Connecticut Children’s Hospital has some ideas on handling the holidays during COVID that are age specific for your child.

We hope the holidays are joyful for you and your family.

Book a FREE Discovery Session to get support for the holiday season for your family.

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