Plan ahead for a fun-filled holiday season in 2022 with Action Behavior Center’s list of friendly activities suited to your child on the spectrum.
The Winter Holiday is another exciting time for your child to engage in social skills, pretend play, sensory exploration, and more! Holidays are a wonderful time to create traditions and new memories for you and your family. We’re confident that your holiday season can be cherished and memorable with the right activities.
Holiday activities can present unique challenges to children on the spectrum, but there are experiences that cater to your child's preferences! Below is a list of autism-friendly activities that can be fun for the whole family.
- A Christmas Lights Tour. Walking through tunnels of glowing lights creates a wonderful opportunity to explore the senses and capture some amazing family photos. If you’re concerned this experience might be overwhelming for your child, an exciting alternative could be a drive thru Christmas light show. Your child can wear their favorite PJs, bring a snack, and enjoy the glowing lights from the comfort of your own car. You can even play Christmas themed songs along the way and some drive thru locations have coordinated music you tune in to on your radio.
- Caring Santa at Simon Malls. Simon Malls across the U.S. have created a magical Christmas experience for children with autism and other disabilities. ‘Noerr’s Santa Photo Experience’ has partnered with Simon Malls to provide a more calm and welcoming environment to visit. Caring Santa is an opportunity for your autistic child to have a memorable Christmas experience with Santa. This is a reservation-based program, so for more information on how to reserve your appointment for a private photo experience, click here.
- The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker can be considered a classic winter show. However, we know how challenging it can be for any kid to sit and observe a full-length ballet. Parents with autistic kids have begun to completely scrap the idea of attending a ballet. But ballet companies across the U.S. are adapting to create a supportive experience for children and adults with autism. Select ballet companies have created shorter, more sensory-friendly versions of the ballet to encourage families with autistic children to give it a try.
- Holiday Movies at Studio Movie Grill. Studio Movie Grill hosts special screenings for children with autism and other disabilities. These screenings are shown with the lights up and the volume lowered. Children are free to move around, talk, or even dance in the aisles during the movie. These sensory friendly screenings are free for children with autism or any other disability and their siblings. Adult tickets are available at before-noon price. While you can’t buy tickets online, simply contact the nearest location if your family wishes to attend.
- Making Play Snow. Unfortunately, every child doesn’t get to experience a snowy season. A great sensory friendly activity can be to make your own. All you need is baking soda and shaving cream! Mix it together, and have fun! If you really want to get creative, use ice cubes to make igloos and add in some toy penguins.
- Christmas Stories In a Blanket Fort. Sometimes the warm and cozy feeling is exactly what we need during the holidays. This can be a great time to build a fort and read some of their favorite Christmas stories. You can even add some Christmas lights to your fort and drink some hot chocolate. Make it fun and memorable.
- Make Christmas Ornaments. A great way to incorporate your child with the decorating process is to have them hand make Christmas tree ornaments. This gives them creative freedom while keeping them busy. It also allows them to get used to the Holiday feeling. Get creative and let your child bring the Christmas tree to life from their perspective.
It is important to remember that every child is unique and could react differently to each of these activities. With that being said, here are some helpful tips to take into consideration when planning your holiday activities.
- Identify an escape plan. If you are planning to be in a public place, make sure you have identified a safe and quiet space for your child to exit the experience. If you aren’t sure, please call ahead. It can be important to have an alternative plan in the event that the experience becomes overwhelming for your child.
- Bring comfort items. If possible, bring familiar toys or items along with you. Whether it’s a fidget toy or a stuffed animal, these items can help your child remain calm during a stressful situation. Some autistic children may even benefit from noise canceling headphones and sunglasses. These can help keep auditory and visual stimulation to a minimum.
Find something that fits your family’s needs and make new holiday traditions. Whatever you do this holiday season, we hope that it’s enjoyable. We know your child will cherish these memories for years to come.
With that being said, be safe. Happy Holidays!