The Challenge of Holidays


Holidays can be full of unexpected events, strange sounds and smells, unfamiliar food and disrupted routines… in short, a nightmare for many students with ASD. Here are a few tips parents and teachers have shared with us that may help:
Before the holiday: Prepare the child for the things you can.

  • Make a holiday calendar and post it where the child can check it frequently. Use pictures or words to indicate special activities or events or to note the arrival and departure of company.
  • A creative teacher had all the children in her class make a book about the special things that happen at home on holidays from school. Children took the books home to get their parents to add information before bringing them back to share with everyone.

During the holiday:

  • Try to create at least one event a day that is predictable and stable… one parent read the same, favorite story book to her son every night of the Christmas vacation. Another Mom reviewed the calendar with her daughter every night before bed, counting the days until it was time to go back to school.
  • Schedule some quiet time for the child each day. If you’re traveling, find a quiet space you can allow the child to use to “get away from it all” and engage in a calming activity. One parent we know created a “fort” underneath the desk at the hotel room they stayed in, placing her son’s favorite book and a snuggly blanket in the space.
  • Keep snacks on hand that your child will eat if the stress of eating unfamiliar food is overwhelming. Hunger can increase irritability. Holidays are not the best time to take a stand on “eating what’s put in front of you”!