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17 Tips to Make Thanksgiving More Comfortable for Kids With Autism

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Thanksgiving is a holiday that involves a lot of planning, but for many families, it goes far beyond turkey and hosting. For children on the autism spectrum, Turkey Day can be a chaotic and overwhelming day, so we asked parents in our community if they have any special tricks to make it more comfortable for their kids.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Arriving early to venues before any crowd or noise arrives helps tremendously. It allows my child time to acclimate and ease into the ‘chaos’ of the holiday.” —Tina Annette Erwin

2. “Don’t expect them to change their routine because you are changing yours.” —Stephanie Loubier Weiss


3. “An Xbox!” —Susan Roudebush Robertson

4. “We’ve learned to dress them for comfort, not the occasion. Our ‘holiday’ outfits are usually sweats or leggings and hoodies or soft tee shirts.” —Lauren Cockrell


5. “Dinner has to be at its normal time… no eating at 2 p.m.” —Alecia Rozanski Edmonds

6. “Have it at our house!” —Amy Elizabeth Kennedy-Bang

7. “Remember to let him enjoy the holiday his way. If he spends the whole time with headphones on and rocking in a chair, that was fine by me.” —Christy Vogel


8. “Prepping for a holiday event is similar to invading a country in our home. Mapping out escape routes, easy enters and exits, places to hide, sound proof equipment, diversions and distractions, not to mention bringing along a backpack full of arsenal (toys, electronics, food, drink). We start talking about Thanksgiving the second Halloween is over. I’m pretty sure a space shuttle launch requires less prep time.” —Brittany Van Arman-Miller

9. “We always bring food we know he will eat. It’s easier on all of us.” —Jennifer Roberts Bittner


10. “We’ve been known to have nuggets for them.” —Kellie Luke

11. “Make sure the iPad is charged and ready to go… don’t forget the charger.” —Melissa Cote


12. “We let our son tour the buffet before anyone else and without an audience. He can touch and smell suspicious foods and if he wants, taste. This has saved many meltdowns.” —Lindy Burnett

13. “We always plan to make a quick exit if it’s too overwhelming for her.” —Victoria Rusay


14. “Lots of prep telling him what to expect, where we are going (describing the location to help him remember if he’s been there before), who will be there, emphasizing people he knows.” —Elizabeth Barnes

15. “I put ketchup on his turkey.” —Breanne Guzman

16. “No matter where we are celebrating our holiday, we find a little spot away from the activities where [our child] can escape to to be alone.” —Lauren Swick Jordan


17. “I let [my son] take breaks through the day.” —Corvette Shannon

*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity.

Do you or a loved one on the spectrum have any Thanksgiving day tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: November 25, 2015
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