Holiday times with children on the spectrum

As the end of the year draws to a close, it should be a happy time for families. We all have struggled through yet another exhausting year of juggling work, home-schooling. Everyone is tired and needs a break. However, holidays may bring another level of exhaustion for families with a child on the autism spectrum.

Holidays and festivities are challenging times.

The idea of gathering with friends and loved ones may sound great and terrifying at the same time because of the numerous things parents must consider with a child with an autism spectrum disorder.

Here are a few tips that may help:

Prior Preparation

Forward planning is the key. Children like to know what is happening, when and how. They want to feel in control. If they are going into unfamiliar territory, this could increase anxiety, be it a house or holiday destination. We have written about this before ( click here to read Travelling with Autistic Children), where you can show photos, plan the route, explain (and explain) how the day (holiday) is going to go, show pictures of who else might be there, who they will see.

They may even like to know where they can go for quiet time if it gets too noisy.

It is also an excellent idea to let other people know in advance about your child and how they react in certain situations, so they are also prepared for the worst and best outcomes.


Children on the autism spectrum often have aversions to certain foods. They may not like certain foods, their food touching or the smells associated with cooking. You may need to bring your food, change arrival times to avoid this or discuss the menu before working with your child and their food requirements.


The end of the year brings a lot of sensory overload for many children, with sparkly lights, loud noises, lots of talking, crowds which can cause meltdowns. Ensure the environment you are taking your child doesn’t overwhelm them.


Don’t forget to pack your child’s toys and games before you head out. This will help your child remain focused and avoid any tantrums. Fill a bag up with all of their favourite things, which will keep them busy and calm.

It is a fine line at times as over planning can be very stressful for an autistic child, and the sensory overwhelm can be too much by the end of the day, so you may need to cut your time short. Remember that holiday times are about being with the people you care about and celebrating. So by planning a few extra steps in that process will ensure you and your loved ones can relax and enjoy the time. There is no rule book. Allow your family to set new traditions and be confident when telling family and friends about your family’s needs, as every child is different.


Additional Reading