How to manage Christmas when your child has Autism

Mother reading or on tablet with daughter at Christmas time

by Oliver Birk |

Christmas could have been devised to torment kids on the autistic spectrum.

Outside: crowded streets, noisy shops, flashing lights. At home: random visitors, no routine, more noise, more flashing lights, long journeys, funny food, non-stop kisses and cuddles, exhausted, ratty adults. Not easy for the child, and even harder if you’re his or her parent.

My son was diagnosed with autism when he was three, in 2017. At first, I struggled to let go of my vision of a ‘normal’ childhood Christmas and kept trying to create that for my children, even though it didn’t work for my son. But this year I’ve learned what works, and what doesn’t. At its core, after all, Christmas is about family. And that means embracing the family I have – not the John Lewis ad version I used to carry in my head. These are the practical things that have made a difference for me, my son and all of us.

9 tips for managing Christmas when your child has autism:

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1) Create a hiding place for your child

Many autistic children feel overwhelmed and anxious by lots of guests, so make them a little den and explain that any time they need a break they can go in here.

Behind the sofa or under the stairs works well, or you could try a pop up play tent (Ikea does a good one for £20). If you’re staying with grandparents it’s worth packing the tent too, to recreate exactly the same ‘safe zone’ at their house. A battery powered nightlight, a favourite book and blankets will make it cosy.

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