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Holiday Tips for Parents of Kids with Autism: Including Gift Ideas & Activities

Posted on December 01, 2011

The holiday season is always a fun yet stressful time of year. Planning activities for kids, buying presents for friends and family, deciding which holiday parties to attend – the list goes on. However, decisions become especially challenging for parents and relatives of those with a child on the autism spectrum.

We surveyed our more than 14,000 community members and came up with some tips to help parents and children on the spectrum successfully navigate through the holidays. Here are the top 5 tips:

  1. Practice. Do a practice run of the holiday moments like waiting for other family members to wake up before opening presents, practice gift giving and receiving, practice any traditions that take place ahead of time to help familiarize your child.
  2. Keep it small. If your kids are easily over-stimulated, keep them away from large or loud groups that you might find at the mall. Keep your child comfortable by avoiding large crowds.
  3. Comfortable surroundings. If your child experiences sensory overload or changes to their environment, gradually decorate your home rather than all at once. Share pictures of typical decorations that your child is likely to see. If you think your child may experience sensory overload from decorations, like flashy lights, have them help decorate your own home with non-flashy decor to feel more comfortable. Also, it may be good to avoid those homes or stores that truly go over the top.
  4. Keep it simple. Avoid over-scheduling. Sometimes, simply staying home for the holidays helps. If you do plan to visit with family, doing so in short sessions can be more effective. Also, establish a place in the home that you’re visiting for your child to have private downtime away from the group.
  5. Create a food plan. If you are taking your child to other homes to visit with family and friends, pack toys, snacks and meals that are familiar to your child. Meal planning is the way to go!

With school breaks surrounding us in December, parents also shared recommendations of activities to take part in, like:

  • Watch Christmas movies and T.V. shows at home.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Decorate the house/tree together.
  • Bake and cook together.
  • Arts & crafts.
  • Christmas tree shopping.
  • Gift shopping.
  • Take a tour/drive around neighborhoods with Christmas lights.

Finally, here are the top gifts parents recommended for relatives to get kids with ASD:

  • iPad
  • Legos
  • Gift cards (iTunes/Amazon)
  • Puzzles
  • Books
  • Sensory toys (like My Keepon, plushies, sonic toys)
  • Video games

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