3 Unique Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Your Child on the Autism Spectrum

I’ve always loved the holiday season! It’s full beautiful lights, inviting smells, and heart warming music.

No matter what religion you are (or aren’t), December is full of family traditions. From visiting Santa, to decorating gingerbread houses, to attending parades. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!


For the same reasons I described above, the holidays can be very stressful for a family with a child on the autism spectrum. All the sights, smells, and sounds can create a sensory overload for some of our little ones.

But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on the wonder of the holidays. Instead, you can get a bit more creative with your family’s activities. Here are a few unique suggestions:

1. Rent your own Santa!

Who says you have to visit Santa at the mall? Sure, that’s the traditional way to do it. But standing in line for over an hour just doesn’t seem worth it when your child is on the spectrum.

I never know how my kiddo will react to new stimuli and unfamiliar faces. And waiting in line is never an easy task.

Fortunately, sensory-friendly Santa events are becoming more widespread. Your family can make a reservation to spend a little more time warming up to Santa. Autism Speaks has a national registry of local events for 2017.


But what if you made a new tradition? What if you brought Santa to your house? There are plenty of Santas-for-hire in your area. Ask around on local Facebook groups for references.

Invite other children if you want. You can collaborate ahead of time so Santa can bring each child a special gift. You can coach him to be calm and patient, so your kiddo feels more comfortable.

You can even have your Santa make crafts with the kids. This is sure to create a lasting memory for your whole family.


2. Go out to eat.

My family had the best Thanksgiving this year. We went out to eat! Seventeen of us, including six children, met at a restaurant to eat and socialize.

Since we had a large party with children, the restaurant set us up in a private room. Our kids had space to move around while we ate and talked.

And the best part… we didn’t have to prepare or clean up. When we were done, we just left. And we had plenty of leftovers to bring home. It was the most stress-free family gathering I’ve ever attended.

If you’re thinking of going out for your holiday meal, make reservations months in advance. More restaurants are doing this every year, but space is definitely limited.



3. Take a bird’s-eye view of the Christmas parade.

As a kid, I always enjoyed attending our city’s annual Christmas parade. I loved listening to the bands and watching the decorated floats pass by.

But if you have a child on the spectrum, you know parades aren’t that simple to watch. You may even skip the parades altogether.

The cold weather, bright lights, loud noises, and crowds could overload your child’s senses, triggering a meltdown.

But instead of cutting this tradition from your holiday schedule, consider watching the parade from a different place. There are lots of hotels surrounding our city’s parade route. Renting a room in December isn’t expensive at all.

My kiddos can see the floats and emergency vehicles from a safe distance, without the loud noises or crowds.

If you don’t want to shell out any money, call around to see if you can view the parade from a lobby or private room. Let them know your situation. People can be very accommodating during the holiday season.



Children of all ages and abilities want to enjoy this magical season. As their parents, we sometimes need think outside-the-box to make sure that happens.

I hope this article gave you some unique ideas for your holiday season. What are some new traditions your family has adopted? I’d love to hear about them.







9 Replies to “3 Unique Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with Your Child on the Autism Spectrum”

  1. I love your ideas! I do know that, for us, the Santa visit wouldn’t have worked at all! David was very averse to costumes, so having Santa visit would have been terrifying.
    So the key is paying attention to what your children can and can’t handle.
    The parade idea is perfect! And who wouldn’t want to spend a day at a hotel — I’d look for one with a lovely warm pool and really take advantage of the mini-vacation!
    And that holiday dinner idea?? I’m IN!! I just want to know why I wasn’t invited!


  2. It’s worth it to get on the mailing lists for various performance venues, arts councils, etc., and keep in touch with other parents with kids on the spectrum. My wife learned from a friend of a sensory-friendly performance of the Nutcracker. My wife and daughter and our friend’s family went to the performance – the theater was a quarter-full, a lot of kids wandering around doing what they do, but my daughter loved it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s