Thanksgiving is a joyful time for the family with food, fun, and gratitude. However, the unusual schedules, new foods, and people-packed homes can be a little overwhelming for children on the spectrum. With some forethought and planning, it is possible to build an inclusive environment that works for everyone.
Here are some practical tips for hosting an autism-friendly Thanksgiving!
Preparation and setting expectations is vital for children on the spectrum. Plan Thanksgiving a few days in advance and sit your child down to explain the schedule. Show your child pictures of the relatives who are expected to turn up. Run them through the plan a couple of times. You can also set expectations on your child’s behavior and explain them that they would be rewarded for their good behavior.
- Prepare Your Family
Preparing your family is as important as preparing your child for Thanksgiving. Be it visiting family and friends or your Thanksgiving hosts, do let them know in advance of your child’s needs. Help them understand sensory meltdowns. You can also educate them on what kinds of interactions work and how to appropriately respond to the child under different situations.
- Make Sure to have Familiar Food
Children on the spectrum can be very particular about their food. Unfamiliar food items, textures, tastes or smell might put off the child. So prep meals that the child is familiar and comfortable with. You can also offer a small portion of a new dish that the child is not accustomed to. Treat the child with a generous portion of their favorite food right after!
- Prepare for Sensory Needs
Children on the spectrum have very strong sensory needs. Noise can be overwhelming, leading to anxiety and possibly meltdowns. Carrying with you something like noise-cancelling headphones can help. Offer these to your child so that they can “turn off” the noise around them.
If possible, seat your child at the end of the table. Providing this extra space could help reduce sensory overload.
- Have an Escape Plan
Make sure that you anticipate and plan for your child, for any signs of stress or discomfort. Inform your family members in advance, so that they can also be of some help.
Create a safe space to escape – a room, if possible. This will be of great help when the child has sensory overload. Have their favorite toys and activities at hand to provide familiar comfort and relief.
Play around with these tried and tested ideas to celebrate an autism-friendly Thanksgiving with your family and friends! Do share with us in the comments below, the strategies you use to make this season a happy time for your child. We hope you create lasting memories with your loved ones, with good food and music during this holiday!
And don’t forget to thank your family for their support on hosting an autism-friendly Thanksgiving! 🙂
Team Avaz sends your way immense thanks for all the love and support you have given us over the years! Wishing each one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!