Tips for Navigating the Holidays


Our Board Certified Behavior Analyst (retired in January 2024) developed helpful tips for families of individuals with and without disabilities to navigate the holiday season.

Keep It Simple

  • Try to limit activities and outings to one per day.

Sensory-Friendly is Best

  • Avoid sensory-challenging activities like shopping.
  • Use no flashing lights – instead use slow, gentle-changing lights.
  • Possibly spread out the gift-giving.
  • Practice wearing new clothing such as a special dress for church to problem-solve any issues in advance. Wearing clothing they are already comfortable with is also an option.


  • Share information ahead of time with the child, family, friends, and others you’ll be with.
  • Visual supports such as schedules, calendars, social stories, and photo albums are helpful
  • Communicate rules such as decorations that can be touched and not touched.
  • Communicate with family and friends about your child’s diet, expectations, and exposure to new items.

Practice & Prepare

  • Plan to keep mealtime and bedtime routines.
  • Plan for travel – pack toys, familiar items, videos, headphones, and books.
  • Discuss how things will be the same and what will be different.
  • Practice opening gifts and the responses that are acceptable.
  • Teach them to say “No, thank you” when they don’t like or want something.
  • Plan and prepare a space for quiet downtime.

Have a Plan B

  • Share those plans with your other children ahead of time.
  • Inform other adults involved so everyone knows their role.

Many communities offer sensory-friendly times to visit Santa, view lights etc. Information on events like this often can be found online through Google searches and social media.