Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in the United States. In fact, more families celebrate Thanksgiving than Christmas. While most people enjoy a reunion of their distance relatives with a delicious turkey feast, it may cause distress to your children. For children with autism, the new food, constant noise, crowded room and disruption to their usual routine on this special day may be overwhelming for them.
Like any other occasion, you need a plan. Below are some tips to make Thanksgiving less hectic and more enjoyable:
Prepare your child and your family
Start the conversation about Thanksgiving with your child. Make them aware of what to expect and use images to explain the schedule of the day. Show them picture of who’s going to be there and what food will be served.
Spend some time to communicate with your family as well. Explain to them how your child shows affection in a different way and other behaviors ahead of time. Ask your host to save a spot at the end of the table so your child can have more room and let them know about any dietary preferences.
Dress for comfort
With the scenario prompt to sensory overload, make sure your child is comfortable with clothing they prefer. It’s probably not the best time for brand new formal wear. If necessary, bring extra clothes to change into for a family photo.
Don’t force feed
Whether it’s a spoon full or just a small bite, don’t force your child to eat - children with autism take longer time to sample new food. Bring food your child will enjoy and let your host know ahead of time in case nothing fits your pick-eater’s appetite.
Bring toys and sensory gadgets
Bring along your child’s favorite toys and useful gadgets for their sensory needs. Wearing headphone may seem inappropriate, but it comes handy in order to reduce background noise and auditory inputs. A weighted lap pad is more discreet and can be used under the dinner table. It provides deep touch pressure to reduce anxiety and increase seating time. You can also set up fidget chair bands to all children seats. Your child won’t be the only one bouncing their feet to relieve boredom, everyone can have fun.
Plan an escape route
Plan an escape route and a quite room in case a meltdown occurs or about to happen. Make the place comfortable, so your child can also relax there before the meal or just take a short break from the crowd.
Reward good behavior
Make sure to let your child know when they are doing well. Praise small successes, such as playing with other children or trying new food. Provide positive feedback throughout the whole time.
We also made a checklist for you to save as a reminder. Hope you enjoy! View Pinterest Version.
Your Turn: How do you prepare for Thanksgiving? Share with us!