Tips for a Happy Holiday with Loved Ones on the Spectrum

Laying the foundation for the ensuing chaos can help minimize meltdowns. If you prepare your loved one ahead of time, it may ease the way through the holidays, despite the noise, the lights, the onslaught of people.

Some ideas to make it easier:

1. Use and Advent Calendar to mark the days to Christmas. You can either use a store bought one or create a PECs version, marking the days on which something special is going to happen (like the day you decorate the tree, bake the cookies, have a party to go to) and let the child pull the PEC off at the end of the day and place in a ‘completed’ folder/basket. Make it fun.

2. Have your loved one help decorate. From trimming the tree to decorating cookies, the more involved they are, the better. They will know what is where because they helped put it there. If it makes your loved one happy to rearrange decorations just so, let them. So long as it doesn’t interfere with other things, if the person has a part in arranging the decorations, and you leave them be, it is more likely, they won’t obsess over their arrangement or rearrangement.

3. Use social stories to explain what is going to be happening during the season.

At Santa-America, there is an Autism resource pack that includes holiday PECs, a social story, and information for parents.

This site includes several simple, useful holiday social stories. has many resources as well but it does require a membership (which to my understanding is free)

4. Prepare for meltdowns. Expect them. Have a plan in place to deal with them, whether it be keeping a comfort object on hand at all times to distract or an escape plan to leave a too loud party. If you expect the meltdowns, you will be prepared to deal with them.

5. Show your loved one pictures of past Christmases. Talk about what happened in years gone by, knowing that this has all happened before and will happen again may help as well.

6. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your family. Don’t worry if everything isn’t perfect or quite the way you expected it to be, what holiday has ever been perfect for anyone? Have fun and build traditions that will last.

We here at the Ohio Valley Autism Network hope you all have a wonderful, happy, safe holiday season.

Merry Christmas!


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