Preparing your autistic child for Christmas

Christmas can be the most exciting time of the year, but for children with autism, the festivities can be too much and may leave them distressed.

Thankfully there are ways you can slowly introduce the festive fun in a relaxed way.

Visiting Santa

Meeting the man in red and giving him your Christmas list can be truly magical! But loud music, long queues and flashing lights can be stressful for anyone, let alone children with autism.

  1. Firstly, talk to your child about Santa and Christmas beforehand. Maybe even show your child some photos.
  2. Find a local grotto experience that offers pre-booked time slots to see Santa. Many grottos offer this and it eliminates long queues for you and your family.
  3. Although it’s tempting to plan your visit as close to the big day as you can, try and book your visit in late November or very early December so that crowds will be minimal.
  4. If you’re really concerned about your child being overwhelmed on the day, one idea is to visit in advance and ask the staff for photos from previous years’ grottos and Santa so your little one knows exactly what to expect.
  5. A quick word in the ear of an elf on the day of your visit can also ensure that Santa doesn’t agree to any outrageous gift requests or make any comment that might alarm your child.

A change in routine

  1. If your child if a bit anxious about the season, you can create something called asocial story to prepare them for what will happen. You can use photos to show your child who will be coming to the house and how the house will look with the tree up and presents around. There are lots of websites and apps that can help parents create personalised social stories with their own pictures. You can find them by searching ‘social stories’ on Google.
  2. Another way to fully prepare your child for change is by using a timetable along with photos of clocks to explain what time a family member may arrive or what time dinner will be served.
  3. Whatever you do, planning ahead and letting your child know what to expect can really help them get used to the new routine over Christmas.

Talking to your child about what’s to come and helping them feel involved without being overwhelmed will help everyone enjoy things more. But always know your child. If you have to give them cereal instead of Christmas dinner, not wrap any presents and keep the Christmas tunes turned off, it doesn’t matter.  Follow their lead and do what’s right for your family.

The Petra’s Place team wishes you all the best for the holiday season!

Petra’s Place is a Therapy centre and Nursery for pre-school children with autism and developmental delay based at 262 Fulham Road, London. For registration enquiries please send an email to [email protected] or visit our website