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8 Ways to Make Holiday Gatherings More Accessible for Guests with Autism

November has officially arrived, which means the holidays are just around the corner! While all of the glitz and glam may be a fun and exciting thing for many of us, it can be hard for those on the spectrum who may have some extra sensory accommodations to consider. 


The good news is that there are plenty of ways to make holiday gatherings fun for everyone!


While this is by no means an all-inclusive list, implementing these quick and easy steps into your seasonal get-togethers may just make all the difference in the comfort of your guests.


  1. Have plenty of “safe” foods available.

 Ask your guest for a list of a few of their favorite foods that make them feel comfortable and safe. This way, you can be confident that they will enjoy what they are eating and will not go hungry!


  1. Be aware of any dietary restrictions.

People with autism may eat a specialized diet, such as a gluten-free or casein-free diet. Along with providing safe foods, make sure there are plenty of options available that fit your guest’s specific dietary needs.


  1. Make sure guests are aware of any and all accommodations.

Communication is always key! It is never a bad idea to let everybody know ahead of time how and why certain accommodations are being made so everyone can enjoy the gathering.


  1. Offer a quiet safe room where your guest can relax if they become overstimulated.

Even with extensive planning and communication, there is no way to completely eliminate the possibility of overstimulation. Have a room readily available where your guest can go for some peace and quiet.


  1. Consider keeping a bin of sensory tools nearby.

Having sensory tools such as fidgets, pop-its, or squeeze balls available at dinner tables, in safe rooms, and in social areas can make your guest feel more secure and comfortable.


  1. Choose and place your decorations accordingly.

Although decking out your space with colorful, flashy lights can make everything feel more festive, this can be overwhelming for people with autism. Avoid loud music, decorations that may cause danger (can be tugged or pose a fire hazard), and consider dim lighting to avoid overstimulation.


  1. Don’t force unnecessary small talk.

Conversing with others can be difficult for people with autism. If your guest seems uncomfortable or uninterested in a conversation, it may be helpful to change the subject or disengage entirely. 


  1. Be flexible.

Don’t take offense if your guest needs to arrive late, leave early, or reschedule/cancel last minute. Be understanding and accommodating to their needs to make them feel welcome, no matter the circumstance.


Take this list with a grain of salt. It is important to remember that no two people on the spectrum are exactly alike, so the most important step you can take to make your guest comfortable is to ask them their specific needs.



Tips for accessible and autism-friendly family gatherings | Beaming Health


About the author: Lauryn Raff is a Social Media Intern at Lifelong Access. She is also a senior undergraduate student at Illinois State University obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Lauryn has a passion for all things creative and hopes to use this quality along with her dedicated studies to make the world a better place. 


The views expressed are Lauryn's and do not necessarily represent the official views of Lifelong Access.

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