How To Create a Happy Holiday Break For Everyone!

Holiday break can be a challenging time of year: kids are free from the regular routine of school, holiday decorations and gifts are twinkling, and travel time is often plentiful. This time of year can be especially difficult for a child with Autism. 

Try these easy tips to help keep the holidays as calm and easy as possible.

Holiday Preparation:

  • Discuss decorations before they happen: Days before you decorate, discuss your plans with your child. Consider adding your child’s favorite character to your seasonal decorations.  
  • Gradually decorate the house: Extreme changes in the environment can be challenging for a child with Autism, so decorating one room at a time will give them some time to acclimate. 
  • Have a coin system for discussing holiday gifts: If you find that your child begins to obsess over a particular gift or list, give your child 5 coins throughout the day and have him/her exchange a coin for a 3 minute conversation about the gift.  

Structuring Time Away From School:

  • Create a social story for traveling: If a social story works for your child, consider creating one that discusses where you will be traveling. Include images and names of family/friends who will be there to help your child feel comfortable. 
  • Create structure for days at home: Not having the daily structure of school can be a challenge. Try to develop a structured day at home and create a visual schedule that matches. It will help your child to have a routine to follow. 
  • Create a calm down area: If you are traveling, define a clear calm down area for your child. Stock it with calming items like stress balls, familiar toys and books. Make it clear that your child is welcome to spend time there when they need a few minutes of quiet time.

Opening Presents:

  • Role play opening presents: Before the holidays begin, do a role play session with your child to model what opening a present should look like.
  • Discuss etiquette of presents: Discuss with your child what the environment will look like (will other children be opening presents? Will they have to wait for others to gather around? etc.)
  • Talk about how to accept a present: Talk with your child about what to say if he/she likes the present, or doesn’t like the present. Role play this conversation so they can practice. 


With these easy steps, holiday break can be fun for the whole family. Just remember to have open conversations with your child and try to prepare them as much as you can for the hustle and bustle of the holidays! 

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