Tips for Navigating the Holidays

Our Board Certified Behavior Analyst has 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.