ASD – Parenting Tips: Creating a Stress-free and Enjoyable Holiday for the Entire Family

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Thanksgiving, a time traditionally associated with joy and gratitude, can pose unique challenges for families with autistic children. Successfully navigating these challenges is crucial for ensuring a holiday experience that is enjoyable and stress-free for every family member. 

Here are strategies to help you prepare for a rewarding Thanksgiving:

1. Communicate with Guests

  • Inform Guests About Your Child’s Needs: Educate guests briefly about your child’s specific requirements to promote understanding and support.
  • Establish Guidelines: Communicate what behaviors are helpful and which might be overwhelming for your child.

2. Plan Ahead

  • Maintain Regular Routine: Aim to keep your child’s daily schedule as regular as possible. If changes are expected, discuss them in advance.
  • Familiarize with New Environments: If attending a celebration in an unfamiliar location, visit it beforehand to acclimate your child to the new setting.

3. Establish a Comfort Zone

  • Tranquil Area: Designate a peaceful, comfortable area where your child can go to find calm if they start to feel overwhelmed.
  • Familiar Objects: Ensure they have access to their favorite toys or other comforting items

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4. Handle Sensory Issues

  • Reduce Noise: Use noise-cancelling headphones if loud sounds are a concern for your child.
  • Cater to Dietary Needs: Prepare a special meal if your child has particular food preferences or sensitivities.

5. Engage Your Child in Preparation

  • Participate in Cooking: Involve your child in safe culinary activities. This can foster bonding and make them feel included.
  • Involve in Decorations: Allow your child to help choose or assist in decorating, giving them a sense of empowerment and involvement.

6. Organize a Timetable

    • Visual Timelines: Use images or a visual timetable to represent the sequence of events on Thanksgiving Day.
    • Scheduled Rests: Plan regular breaks to help your child relax and decompress.

7. Embrace Gratitude-Based Activities

  • Autism-Friendly Crafting: Engage in simple crafts focused on thankfulness, suitable for children with autism.
  • Storytelling: Share or read age-appropriate Thanksgiving stories that are engaging.

8. Remain Adaptable

  • Alternative Plans: Have a backup strategy in case your child becomes too overwhelmed.
  • Be Ready to Modify Plans: Be open to adjusting your plans and accept that not everything may go as expected.

9. Parental Self-Care

  • Take Time for Yourself: Remember to take short breaks for yourself to prevent burnout.
  • Ask for Assistance: Don’t hesitate to seek help from other family members or friends.

10. Acknowledge Achievements

  • Celebrate Progress: Recognize and rejoice in the small successes and joyful moments of the day.
  • Cherish the Happiness: Focus on the essence of Thanksgiving and the joy and love within your family.


Preparing for Thanksgiving with an autistic child involves effective communication, advance planning, and personal self-care. By adopting these strategies, you can create a Thanksgiving celebration that is enjoyable for everyone, embracing the unique qualities of each family member and building cherished memories together.


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