Autistic Children and Thanksgiving Dinner

If you have an autistic child, you are most likely more than use to the troubles that large gatherings and loud settings can lead to. Nevertheless, Thanksgiving is the time of year when families get together to celebrate their blessings and you don’t want to skip the festivities. With a little planning, you can enjoy Thanksgiving with your family and so can your child.

Whether you are planning a Thanksgiving feast at your home, or going to a family member’s home, take into consideration the fact that your child may need a safe place away from all of the stimulation to escape to. In your home, that will be easy to manage, but in another home, ask the host ahead of time to designate an area for your child where you can put some favorite and comforting items from home.

Make sure your guests are comfortable with your child and that they know what to expect. Explain any off-putting behaviors your child may exhibit as well as certain triggers. You can tell them about your child’s likes and dislikes as well.

Prepare favorite foods for your child so that he feels more comfortable at the table. Also, include some great desserts for him. If someone else is doing the cooking, ask if you can bring some specific side dishes that your child and everyone can enjoy.

Prepare for the meal by making sure your child is familiar with sit down dinners. If he has no experience with sitting at the table to eat, than you can’t expect him to behave properly during Thanksgiving dinner. You can practice with each meal that you eat as a family and with pretend play as well.

Communicate to your child what your plans are. Set expectations ahead of time so that your child knows what’s coming. Show him where he can go if he starts to feel overwhelmed and let him choose some favorite items to bring with him.

Plan to keep the night short and sweet. If you expect to make an early exit and you inform your hosts of these plans, you won’t feel obligated to stay any longer than you need to. And if your child ends up being okay with the evening, you may even rejoice in getting to stay longer than you had planned.

Having and setting realistic expectations while planning ahead can help you and your entire family enjoy Thanksgiving. Autism is a challenge, but does not mean you can’t lead as normal a life as possible, and celebrating your blessings is one of the best ways to do that.

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About Nancy

I am a freelance writer focused on parenting children with special needs. My articles have been featured in numerous parenting publications and on I am the former editor and publisher of Vermont HomeStyle Magazine. I am a wife and mom to a two daughters, one with cystic fibrosis and one who is a carrier for cystic fibrosis.