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Thanksgiving is a time for good food, spending time with loved ones, and for giving thanks. But how do you explain this to your autistic child? Check out my tips for how to help your autistic child with Thanksgiving. And grab a free printable Thanksgiving social story.

How to Help Your Autistic Child with Thanksgiving

Our kids on the spectrum thrive with routine and structure. But Thanksgiving, and many major holidays, have a tendency to throw all of that out. We, as parents, can do our part with helping them prepare for the upcoming holiday.

For starters, let’s take a look at this from our perspective.

We may think nothing of making plans to go to a relative’s house, to spend our day cooking, and to spend our day with our family members that we may not have seen for quite some time.

For our kids on the spectrum, however, this can be problematic.

But why?

It’s overwhelming, it’s unpredictable, and you are taking them far out of their comfort zones.

How to Prepare for Thanksgiving Day with Your Autistic Child

Plan in advance. If you are making travel plans, discuss them with your child.

  • Where are you going
  • How are you getting there
  • How long will it take
  • How long are you staying
  • Who else will be there

If you are traveling, prepare a travel kit. Think of some road trip activities that your child can do.

Things like this:

Next, of course, is to talk about Thanksgiving dinner. Now, you’ll want to cover as much as possible:

  • Smells that they may encounter
  • Food
  • Relatives
  • Table manners

This part of the day can be especially overwhelming in terms of sensory overload. Just think about it.

The noise level if there are a lot of people around and if there’s music or a football game on television. While this may be something that we think nothing of? For our kiddos on the spectrum this can be downright painful.

Then there’s the smell. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the smell of pumpkin pie, turkey roasting in the oven, and stuffing. But for our kiddos? That may not be the case.

And speaking of that delicious smell, let’s talk about the food. While we may look forward to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you know your child and their preferences. It couldn’t hurt to bring along some of their favorites, just in case.

Finally, let’s talk about the people. Sure, they might be relatives and you may get along oh so well with them. But that’s also a lot to deal with. Maybe they don’t see your child all the time. Be prepared for that scenario. And be prepared to offer your child the opportunity to take a break.

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Free Printable Thanksgiving Social Story

If you are looking for additional ways to help your child with Thanksgiving, you can grab a copy of my free Thanksgiving social story.


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Digital Product Creator at Kori at Home
Kori is a late diagnosed autistic/ADHD mom. She is currently located in Albany, NY where she is raising a neurodiverse family. Her older daughter is non-speaking autistic (and also has ADHD and Anxiety) and her youngest daughter is HSP/Gifted. A blogger, podcaster, writer, product creator, and coach; Kori shares autism family life- the highs, lows, messy, and real. Kori brings her own life experiences as an autistic woman combined with her adventures in momming to bring you the day-to-day of her life at home. Kori is on a mission to empower moms of autistic children to make informed parenting decisions with confidence and conviction.

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