Help with the Holidays: 5 tips for big gatherings
November 21, 2018

It’s the time of year when we demonstrate our appreciation for the wonderful people in our lives.  That usually involves a lot of parties and big gatherings.  Despite the overall enjoyment of these events, for our loved ones on the spectrum, parties can be extremely difficult.  Here are 5 ways we can make the holidays pleasant for all.

Help with the Holidays: 5 Tips

 1) Plan to Leave Early

With so much to see, hear, and smell, in addition to the abundance of people, it is easy to become overstimulated at a party.  Limiting the time someone with ASD experiences excessive sensory input will help with the holidays. As a result, it is exhausting, and maybe even painful, for someone with autism to deal with the enveloping chaos of a party.  Interacting with partygoers adds an additional level of challenge. With these challenges in mind, plan to leave while everyone is still feeling good. Having a good time at a previous party will increase the opportunities for success at the next one, as well as increasing the likelihood of another invitation from the host of the party.

2) Bring foods they will enjoy

Being in a new environment with lots of social interaction is a difficult task.  Feeling hungry and/ or thirsty makes interacting even harder.  Bring foods your loved one will enjoy, in case there are no foods they will eat at the party. They will be satisfied and better able to handle whatever unexpected challenges occur. You can tackle the food sensitivities another time.

3) Have a schedule, write it down, and follow it 

Make the party as predictable as possible.  Knowing when an activity will end makes it easier to self- regulate. Schedule breaks and enjoyable activities throughout the party.  *Remember, too many fun things can be as overwhelming as too many challenges.

4) Assign a place to relax

Discuss with the host, before the party, where your loved one can go if they need some peace and quiet. Then once you arrive, before doing anything else, show them where they can relax, if needed.

5) Prepare the hosts/ friends/ family for your loved one’s needs

Ahead of the party, talk to the host and explain that the goal for your loved one is to attend the party and have fun. Explain that you will need to leave earlier than expected, bring food for them, and have a quiet area available.  Your host wants you to have a pleasant experience or they would not have invited you.  Give them the opportunity to help with the holidays and have fun!

Happy Holidays!

Rebecca J Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD.  Need more help with the holidays? Check out for more information.