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Creating an Autism Friendly Christmas for your Neurodivergent Children

The holiday season is a joyous time of year, it can also be overwhelming for many children, but for those that are on the autism spectrum, ADHD or other sensory processing needs, it can be particularly challenging. 

As a parent, it's essential to prioritise your child's needs during this time, and ensure that the celebrations are autism-friendly.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate an autism-friendly Christmas

Plan Ahead: Children with autism thrive on routine, so it's essential to plan ahead, and let your child know what to expect during the holiday season. Create a visual schedule, so they know what's happening each day, and stick to it as much as possible.

Sensory-Friendly Environment: The sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas can be overwhelming for many children with autism. Create a sensory-friendly environment by turning down the volume on music and ensuring that there is a quiet space where your child can retreat if they need a break.

Prioritise Your Child's Needs: Remember, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, but it's essential to prioritise your child's needs. Don't be afraid to say no to events or activities that might be too overwhelming for your child.

Sensory/Fidget Toys: Sensory and fidget toys can be an excellent tool to help your child cope with sensory overload. Consider purchasing a few toys that your child can use during the holiday season.


Establish a visual schedule: Create a visual calendar, using images or symbols, to help your child understand the routines and activities that will occur during the holiday season.

Social stories: Develop social stories that explain the various traditions and events that will take place. This will help your child familiarise themselves with new experiences and expectations they may encounter.

Practise sensory calming techniques: Teach your child some sensory calming techniques (deep breathing, pressure-based activities) ahead of time to help them manage potential sensory overload during Christmas gatherings.

Create a Safe Space:

Offer a quiet retreat: Designate a quiet space where your child can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Fill it with sensory-friendly items that your child finds comforting.

Use headphones or ear defenders: Provide noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders to minimise auditory overload during the festivities.

Communicate with Family and Friends:

Educate them about autism: Share information about autism with your family and friends. Help them understand your child's unique needs, challenges, and strengths.

Emphasise inclusion: Encourage loved ones to include your child in activities but allow them to participate at their own pace and comfort level.

Set realistic expectations: Help others understand that your child's behaviour may differ from their neurotypical peers, and that it's okay. Provide strategies for handling potential meltdowns or sensory sensitivities.

Offer Holiday Gift Recommendations:

Books: Consider gifting books that promote understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. Some recommended reads include:

"This Beach Is Loud!" by Samantha Cotterill

"My Brother Charlie" by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Sensory/Fidget Toys: Gift your child sensory or fidget toys that can provide comfort and relaxation.

Some popular options include:

Fidget cubes

Weighted blankets

Kinetic sand

Noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders

By following these tips and recommendations, you can ensure a more autism-friendly Christmas while also fostering understanding and acceptance among your family and friends. Remember that open communication and education are vital to creating an inclusive environment for your child.

Embrace the unique strengths and challenges of neurodivergent individuals during this special time of year, and make lasting memories that celebrate the wonderful diversity of your family.

Inclusive Stories Subscription Box

Inclusive Stories monthly subscription box includes carefully curated books and sensory/fidget toys that celebrate diversity and neurodiversity.

If you would like to learn more about Inclusive Stories or support our mission, please follow us on social media at @inclusivestories. You can also download and listen to the Inclusive Stories podcast, and consider subscribing or making a purchase.


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