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Planning an Autism-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is just a week away. Although celebrations this year are likely to be more subdued than in previous years, it could still be an obstacle if your child has autism. With the abundance of sensory stimulation and social interaction they will face, Thanksgiving dinner could induce an autism meltdown in your child. Today, we’d like to give you a few tips on how to plan for an autism-friendly holiday.

Planning an Autism-Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

Here are some tips for planning an autism-friendly Thanksgiving dinner.

Prepare Food They Like

During Thanksgiving, we tend to eat some foods that we don’t normally eat otherwise. How often do you eat cranberry sauce? What about stuffing? To us, these once-a-year foods might be what we love about Thanksgiving. But it might not be so simple to your child.

Children with autism may be sensitive to novel tastes and textures. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the typical Thanksgiving foods yourself. But make sure to have some more familiar food for your child.

Avoid Sensory Overload

There’s no denying that Thanksgiving can be overwhelming from a sensory perspective. In addition to novel food, your child may be seeing unfamiliar faces, and feel swept up in a sea of conversation.

In order to plan an autism-friendly Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to account for your child’s sensory needs. If they frequently feel overwhelmed by noise and conversation, bring a pair of headphones for them to use. If there is a toy or device that helps to calm them down, let them take it.

If you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving yourself, kindly ask your host to prepare one room for your child to escape to in case they feel overwhelmed. A little bit of quiet solitude could mean the difference between a meltdown and no meltdown.

Manage Expectations

It’s human nature to expect special days such as birthdays and holidays to be perfect. Thanksgiving is no exception. But we’re sure you’ve learned by now that life doesn’t tend to go that way. And by expecting them to, you risk holding them to an unfair standard.

Accept your Thanksgiving dinner for what it is. If your child with autism melts down, you have likely been through it before, and you know how to handle it.

By the same token, communicate with the attendees about your child’s needs. Educate them about meltdowns and sensory overload.

Sometimes, a shift in perspective is all that’s necessary to make your holiday feel special.

The Connections Therapy Center

The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Pinterest.


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Connections Therapy Center

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    Lanham, MD 20706
  • 301-577-4333
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    Connections Therapy Center
    4451 Parliament Place, Suite A Lanham, Maryland 20706
    Phone: 301-577-4333