5 Tips to an Autism Friendly Holiday

As we fully emerge into the holiday season it is easy to get pulled into the hustle and bustle. Bright lights, loud music, and crowds of people are everywhere. During this very busy time it is important to remember that not everyone is excited about the business of the season. The environmental changes can lead to anxiety and stress for a little one who does not like to be surrounded by crowds of people, hear loud sounds, see bright lights, interact with new people, or transition to unfamiliar locations. Below you will find 5 tips that may help your child with Autism succeed this holiday season.

1. Prepare for the Day

One of the most difficult things with the holidays is the change in routine. A change in routine can often lead to melt downs or tantrums. Help prepare your child, by talking to him or her about the change before it occurs. Go over these simple “wh” questions:

Where are you going?
When are you going?
Who else is going to be there?
What are you going to do once you are there?
Why are you going to this new or novel place?

For Example:

If a typical Saturday involves a trip to the grocery store, watching movies, and playing at home. Let your child know few days ahead of time, on Saturday this week, the family will not be going to the grocery store but instead going to Grandma’s, his/her cousins will be there, he or she will get to play and eat dinner at Grandma’s house. Informing your child of this change will allow them to better prepare as well as give them something to look forward to and be excited about.

2. Find a Quiet Place

When placed in a new or unfamiliar setting, it can often become overwhelming. With so many faces crammed into one place the noise level begins to rise. Identify a place in the new environment, such as a room or corner, where the child can go that will allow him/her to escape from the people and noise and take a break. Take your child’s preferred toys, snacks, and comfort items along to ease the stress of a busy holiday schedule.

3. First_____. Then____.

Often children with Autism decide they want something and they want it RIGHT NOW. While caregivers are typically able to honor these requests as soon as they arise, being in an unfamiliar place or with others does not always allow for these requests to be met. This simple statement will help your child know that you heard their request and that it will be met, but not right away.

“First we clean up the puzzle, then we get to watch a movie.”
“First eat dinner, then play with toys”

Using this terminology lets him or her know what they must complete prior to gaining access to a preferred food, toy, person, or activity.

4. Head phones and Sunglasses

The music in the grocery store may not be bothering you. If fact you might be enjoying it and humming along. However, it might be turned up a notch or two higher than normal and for your child it could be more than he or she can handle. Noise canceling or reducing head phones are a great way to block out unwanted noises in the environment. This simple step may save you from a 20-minute meltdown, due because the music is too loud in the child’s ears.

On a similar note, bright florescent lights to your child could seem as if they have been sitting in a dark room and someone has surprisingly turned on the light. Sunglasses are a great way to reduce the amount of light that their eye is taking in and make the experience more comfortable.

5. Embrace the Imperfection

The day will probably have a hiccup or two, maybe even before you leave the house. Taking along a favorite toy or food and talking to your child and preparing them for the day can only help make the day go smoother. Capture the memories and learn to embrace and laugh about the things that do not go as planned. We need to be flexible in our planning, just as we hope for our child.

Bridges Autism Therapies would like to wish everyone a very magical holiday season. Please contact us at (812) 901-1173 or visit for more information about services or to set up a tour. We are excited to be serving the Evansville Community.