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Autism and Family Gatherings – How to Manage?

July 11, 2016


We spend a lot of time over the holidays socializing with family and friends. How can I make sure my son behaves appropriately? Most of our friends and relatives are not accustomed to interacting with children on the spectrum. I’d really like for him to fit in comfortably.


Many parents struggle with managing the complexities of autism and family gatherings. The advice that follows should help you and your child enjoy the holiday season with fewer challenges.

Tips for a more enjoyable family gathering:

As we approach the holidays, many families will be having gatherings and celebrations. Family gatherings are exciting, but may be stressful for individuals that have a hard time processing loud sounds or being in crowded areas. A schedule of activities will provide predictability in this setting. Let your child know what the day will look like, and when it will be time to go home. Try to find a quiet space in the home where your child can go if he or she needs to leave the area. Take familiar toys and activities with you.

If there are certain rules you need your child to follow while at someone else’s house, specify these rules and expectations ahead of time. You can also practice following the rules before the gathering. If you know there may be expectations that are more challenging for your child, ask your BCBA to work on these skills with you and your child in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

Social stories are another great way to help your child understand what they should and should not do at the host’s house, or when you have company at home. These stories can be made on the computer, or they can be handwritten and drawn.

Father playing with his little girl at home Father playing with his little girl at home