Christmas is going to be different for most of us this year, but it will still bring a change in routine as well as new sights, sounds and smells. While this can mean lots of fun, it may also mean social anxiety, sensory overload and uncertainty for some autistic people.

We asked our community for some little tips that can make a big difference over the holiday season.

  1. Slow down - let your child open their presents at their own pace, even if they just open one and play with that all day.
    Sharon, Mum
  2. Sensory overload - stay away from overly stressful or busy environments. Try to get plenty of sleep and exercise and resist the urge to eat junk.
    Mary, autistic adult
  3. Routine - try to keep your routine as normal as possible. Put the Christmas tree up long before Christmas eve and decorate it at a slow and steady pace as a family.
    Susan, Mum
  4. Planning - I like to plan the day as much as possible. I even make place cards for people so I can make sure everyone sits in the right place at the table as that was always a big stressor.
    Bethan, autistic adult
  5. Quiet Space - set aside a space to get away from the madness. My daughter and I both get overwhelmed by change in routine, exciting build up, lots of people, different environments etc.
    Coralie, autistic Mum
  6. Surprises - Your child might prefer to know what presents they are getting in advance. As a parent it might not seem as fun, but for our son it makes presents much more enjoyable.
    Matt, Dad
  7. Sensory decorations - No flickering lights. Warm white, soft glow. Use tactile ornaments that are in easy reach.
    Wendy, Mum
  8. Safety - If you are seeing some family over the holidays, can you visit their house or meet for a stroll? That way, home remains a safe place and you can control how much Christmas goes on.
    Jax, autistic Mum
  9. Familiarity - Theme your Christmas tree around a hobby or passion. It can be a great security for children to have a hobby or passion that they know everything about.
    Annie, Mum
  10. Food - Serve meals in separate bowls so that your autistic guests can choose their food combinations and avoid unwanted mixing.
    Sam, Consultant Psychiatrist


Thank you to all the autistic people, parents and professionals who shared these great tips.