5 Things That Made Holidays Hard For My Autistic Son

As the holidays approach, I reflect on how tricky they were for my son Joshua.  There are a number of things going on at one time, which often challenge an Autistic child, regardless of where they are on the spectrum.  By no means did we ever expect our family and friends to cater to us, but there are issues that affect an Autistic child that often do not affect a “typical” child.

Here are some things we were challenged with as parents during the holidays.  I hope you find this helpful.

1. Schedule Change

We were lucky that Joshua did well with schedule changes as long as he knew they were coming. He liked to know what days of the week he had school and what days we had company coming over for dinner. He likes to go to bed around the same time every evening and get up at the same time every day. He even preferred to watch the same shows pretty consistently and when it wasn’t on it was very upsetting.

So holidays made for a very difficult time with the schedule. Sometimes family were in from out of town and wanted to do things that ran late. And generally lunch wasn’t served at 11 AM like he was used to. So we did everything we could to prepare him for the schedule changes on holidays, but it was still definitely a challenge.  When you compiled it with some of the other things below it could prove to be too much for your toddler.

2. Touchy Feely

It’s true that relatives want to squeeze your cheeks and tell you how big you are. Joshua was actually an affectionate kid for having Autism, but didn’t always do well when people he didn’t see on a consistent basis wanted hugs.  He also generally didn’t want to sit still unless maybe you were reading him a book….

3. Food changes

I’m pretty sure Joshua could’ve lived off of mac & cheese and chicken nuggets for his entire life. He definitely had (okay maybe still has) a lot of texture issues with food. Common foods on holidays such as mashed potatoes or green beans with “stuff “in them were foods that he definitely did not prefer. I didn’t want my kids to be the ones who had to have different food from everyone else, so we’ve tried really hard to get him to eat whatever one else was eating. Sometimes we succeeded…other times…not so much.

4. Noise

Families can be loud. I mentioned this in this post – but Joshua didn’t like all the noise.  From watching football games and cheering to all the laughter and the storytelling, it’s not the quiet house that Joshua was used to.  It seems standoffish when he wants to consistently leave the room that everyone is hanging out in or when he tries to cover his ears.  Sometimes he did this by putting one hand over one ear and then putting the other ear tight to his shoulder.

5. Sharing
As a general rule, sharing stinks all the time. For Joshua it was even more so when he had all his toys lined up in a row or had things in a particular way and people would actually want to play with them. We knew sharing was an important lesson for him to learn and holidays were often a great time to try to introduce this but again, compiled with any of the things above it can make for a rough day.

Whether you have a child with any special needs or not, what challenges do you face during the holidays?


Pam is the Executive Director of the Orange Effect Foundation. She worked in the marketing field for the past 10 years, serving as Chief Operations Officer for Content Marketing Institute. During that time she found her passion to build and lead amazing teams because of the commitment of the staff at CMI. Pam also helped to create Content Marketing World, an event where over 3500 marketers come together annually to learn and network with the best and brightest. Pam's background is in social work, and she is raising a son with autism so the opportunity to start and direct this nonprofit is a dream come true. She has been a key leader in the CMI Golf for Autism the past 11 years and a champion for many other nonprofit organizations.

Leave a Reply


captcha *