Tips for a Sensory-Friendly Thanksgiving for Kids with Autism

November 21, 2022

Preparation Is Important for a Successful Gathering

The holidays are often overwhelming for children on the spectrum due to busy traveling schedules, social gatherings, and different environments, which are often filled with new scents and new food. To have the most successful holiday experience, the Autism Society of Los Angeles shared five fantastic tips for a sensory-friendly Thanksgiving in their most recent newsletter. These suggestions are impressive, so we decided to pass them along. 


Families & friends should plan ahead and all be aware of the day’s itinerary and accommodations. Pack a “safety net bag” with calming items, address any substitutes, and if needed, discuss an exit strategy.


Routines will be broken around holiday celebrations so it’s important to set expectations through a picture schedule, written timeline, checklist, or conversation; Share details about the day’s process, attendees, sights, sounds and smells that the individual will encounter.


Plan a safe space in advance, for your loved one to take sensory breaks when needed; dim the lights, reduce noise, and provide other specific comforts to help keep calm. Keep the safe space undisturbed.


Keep guests and/or hosts aware of sensory needs, so substitutes or accommodations can be made. Incorporate sensory breaks in the safe space, to prevent the individual from becoming overwhelmed.


Make sure there are foods he/she/you enjoys on the menu; do not try to force new foods or textures, and pack some favorite foods as a back up. Also pack favorite sensory items, toys, books, and clothes to ensure comfort and calmness.

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