6 Tips for Thanksgiving with Autism
When you hear the word Thanksgiving, what comes to mind? For most people, it's food and family. More often than not, you get a little more of both than you had originally asked for. For families with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, there can be a third word that comes to mind: stress. There are endless "what ifs." But what if he doesn’t like the food? Is the car ride to our aunt’s house too long? How will she deal with meeting all her cousins? What will my relatives think?
The key is to plan for what you can, and expect the unexpected. You probably have accepted by now that your holiday experience will not quite be like everyone else’s, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be special. Being flexible and adaptable to the idea of what Thanksgiving should or shouldn’t be will do wonders for your autistic child and your family. Here are 6 tips to get you there!
- Prepare Different Foods
Chances are your child is a picky eater because of their sensory sensitivities. This means that the smorgasbord of turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce may be not very appealing compared to the familiarity and routine of pizza and fries. Try to prepare foods that you know your child can fall back on, in case they don’t feel comfortable with what’s new on the Thanksgiving menu.
- Talk about Thanksgiving Expectations
Similar to Halloween, preparation is paramount. The change in regular routine can be daunting for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). That being said, talking about expectations, acting out family gatherings, eating some of the Thanksgiving foods, and showing them pictures of what’s to come can be instrumental in making Thanksgiving a little more familiar. This can be done on a yearly basis so that eventually they may become more accustomed to the traditions.
- Create a Schedule
Schedules for individuals with autism can provide much needed structure in an otherwise seemingly unpredictable world. During the hectic holiday times, this is a great way to introduce new events, but in an organized manner. By taking a moment together to make a Thanksgiving schedule, it can not only save you time from possible outbursts later on but is a great way to teach your child independence by letting them keep track of the schedule themselves.
- Speak to your Relatives about Expectations
Not everyone is educated about the autism world, and least of all about the particular likes and dislikes that your child has as an individual. For this reason, relatives may need a little debriefing as to what they may expect. Relatives meeting your child for the first time could benefit from sending pictures of themselves to you so your child can prepare for new faces. Let them know about the schedule, educate them on what sensory issues may occur and any other unique habits your child may have.
- Prepare for a Tantrum
Things may go wrong, no matter how much you prepare. Thankfully, you can prepare for that too. If you are visiting someone else’s house, bring some items that provide solace, such as a favorite toy or blanket. Ask the host to provide a safe room that your child can go to when they feel overwhelmed by their surroundings and introduce that room beforehand as you enter the house.
- Be Thankful
After all is said and done, Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what you have. Although, the combination of autism and holidays may make for some stressful times, all the more reason to celebrate what you do have. Bring some home videos or photos of your child to share with your relatives that demonstrate all the positive growth that has occurred in the past year.
Share your Autism Family Thanksgiving with us by Instagramming or Tweeting @snugvest a photo with the hashtag #autismfamily!
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