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Top Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress for Autistic Children

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness for many families. However, for children on the autism spectrum, it can be a challenging and overwhelming time. Sensory overload, changes in routine, and social demands can lead to increased stress and anxiety. To ensure a more enjoyable and relaxed holiday season for autistic children and their families, here are some top ways to reduce holiday stress.

Prepare and Plan Ahead:

Create a visual schedule. Use visual aids like calendars or charts to prepare your child for holiday events. This can help them anticipate what's coming and reduce anxiety. Have some fidgets on hand. If you need new ideas, refer to my blog on travel toys and fidgets:

Maintain Routine:

Try to stick to your child's regular routine as much as possible. Consistency and familiarity can provide a sense of comfort during the chaos of the holiday season.

Communication is Key:

Talk to your child about the holiday plans and any potential changes in their routine. Use clear and simple language to help them understand what to expect.

Sensory-Friendly Celebrations:

Opt for sensory-friendly holiday decorations and lighting. Some children with autism may be sensitive to bright lights or loud noises, so consider using softer, dimmable lighting and ear protection if needed.

Offer a Safe Space:

Create a quiet, safe space where your child can retreat if they become overwhelmed. This can be a designated room or a corner with sensory toys or calming tools.

Social Stories:

Use social stories or visual narratives to explain social situations that might arise during the holidays. This can help your child better understand and navigate social interactions.

Manage Gift-Giving:

Limit the number of gifts or the size of gatherings to prevent sensory overload. Consider giving gifts that align with your child's interests and sensory preferences.

Engage in Sensory-Friendly Activities:

Plan holiday activities that cater to your child's sensory needs. This could include activities like baking, crafting, or playing with sensory-friendly toys.

Involve Your Child:

Encourage your child to be part of the holiday preparations. Involving them in decorating, choosing gifts, or planning a special meal can create a sense of ownership and excitement.

Self-Care for Caregivers:

Don't forget to take care of yourself. The holiday season can be demanding for parents and caregivers. Be sure to take breaks and seek support when needed.

Prepare for Unpredictability:

While planning is essential, be prepared for unexpected changes. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial during the holiday season.

Educate Others:

Share information about autism with family and friends. This can help them better understand your child's needs and reduce misunderstandings or judgment.


The holiday season can be a magical time for everyone, including autistic children, with the right strategies in place. By planning, maintaining routines, and creating a sensory-friendly environment, you can significantly reduce holiday stress for your child. Remember that every child is unique, so it's essential to tailor these tips to your child's specific needs and preferences. With the right support and understanding, you can create a warm and joyful holiday season that your child can fully enjoy.

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