How to Make the Christmas Season Bright and Sensory Friendly

The holidays can be hectic under the best of circumstances, but if you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you may be facing them with a sense of dread. This busy time of year, with all its sights, sounds, smells, and crowds can be absolutely overwhelming. How can you make the Christmas season merry and bright, while keeping it sensoryfriendly? 

  • For a child with ASD, the holidays can be a time of sensory overload. The mall can be overwhelming, even for neurotypical people, so do your best to avoid taking your child there if it’s not absolutely necessary. Shop online, find a sitter, or ask someone to pick a few things up for you. Look for “sensory-friendly” Santas and other low-key holiday options, and if you’re heading to a big holiday event, have a plan B in place just in case it’s too much for your child.  
  • Another issue with holidays is that they disrupt the normal routine. Consider carefully before you commit to things that will put a crimp in the schedule, and try to keep things as normal as possible. If you’re traveling, make sure to bring along your child’s favorite things, and try to stick to the regular routine in regard to things like mealtimes and bedtimes if you can. When you do choose to attend a special event, practice behaviors ahead of time so your child knows what to expect. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that you don’t believe will be in the best interest of your child. 
  • Visiting with unfamiliar friends and family members can be stressful for a child with ASD. Make a plan ahead of time, and anticipate which gatherings and traditions will be stressful for your child. Be polite but firm, and explain your child’s needs to family members, so that they can understand how best to help you, but bring your own necessities and have a plan in place to escape to a quiet room or another location if things become overwhelming.  
  • Have a plan in place for managing your own holidaysKeep things simple, and establish traditions that will be fun for everyone in your family. Don’t set unrealistic expectations, but try to stay low key when you can, while still considering the needs and desires of your other children and family members. Take care of yourself, too, and create the kind of holiday season that you’ll remember fondly in years to come.  

If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896. 


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