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Tips for Choosing Autism-Friendly Holiday Decorations

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Why do you need autism-friendly decorations?

If your child has a diagnosis of autism or related challenges, it can mean you likely are spending more time in your home than you may have thought possible. So why not make it as festive as you can?

If your child is like mine, the wrapping paper and ribbon is more exciting than the gift inside, which can mean that “decorations” in a traditional sense may not last long without being ripped, torn, “borrowed” or otherwise destroyed.

If you have all but given up on decorations, but you’re tired of missing out on all the fun, here are some things to try. So unleash your inner Pinterest party-planner and try these ideas for autism-friendly decorations.

Aim High

If you have trouble with decorations being “stolen” from tables, shelves, and other lower surfaces in your home, then look up. Rethink using door frames, chandeliers and other higher surfaces to display festive items. You can even use the ceiling.

I use the shiny, yet unbreakable and hollow ornaments from my local craft store.  I have a set of hearts, shamrocks, decorated eggs and tree ornaments. I thread some clear, plastic thread or fishing wire through the loop and display them. (Let me know if you find some turkeys!)

Think Strings

Garlands of beads, fringed foil streamers, strips of colorful crepe paper. All of these options are great choices because they not only can be hung from the walls and/or ceiling, but they can also make great sensory items once they have been removed. Pro tip: If you think it will be really tempting, buy two — one to hang and one for play.

Go Squishy

If you start looking, you will find that there are dozens of squishy, soft, and stuffed decorations for pretty much any holiday you may celebrate. Squishy heart? Check.  Squishy snowman? Check. Squishy bunnies? Check. For decorations I place on lower surfaces, I stick with not only unbreakable choices, but also ones that are meant to be picked up, touched, tossed and run with. (Downside, my son’s current obsession is with throwing stuff in the pool — not exactly the best combination, but certainly not the end of the world).

Inflate Something

You can buy a range of inflatable decorations for many holidays. These also have the advantage of not being breakable (though some may pop more easily than others). Additionally, inflatable items are lightweight, so potentially can cause less damage to other items or people in your home.

Balloons are another great choice — either a themed, festive mylar design, or a bevy of traditional ones. You don’t really even need helium — just some lung power to make a carpet of balloons in a festive color palette. Balloons are a low-cost, high-impact way to celebrate almost anything.

Bonus: Attach lengths of curling ribbon to each balloon for extra sensory fun and enjoyment.

Choose Edible

Safe, edible decorations are another category of decorations that works well for lower tables and shelves. If your family has the discipline to have a non-breakable, festive candy bowl on the table (and your child won’t try to eat the wrappers!) then go for it. We have had more luck with decorating gingerbread houses or other cookie displays to add a festive touch that is theoretically meant to be eaten. Trader Joe’s often has items for Halloween, in addition to the winter holidays.

Be Flexible

Lastly, just remember to be flexible. If this means you put up your tree at night, after your child with disabilities is in bed, then do that. You may have to forgo the holiday music while you decorate, but at least you’ll get a moment to enjoy the tree before it is, um, “redecorated.”

This story originally appeared on The Piece of Mind Retreat.

Getty image by Steverts.

Originally published: November 11, 2020
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