My absolute favorite time of year begins around Halloween and lasts through the end of the year. There are always so many wonderful celebrations with family and friends to look forward to. But between parties, family gatherings, school programs, and other events, the joy of the holiday season can quickly become a very stressful time of year for anyone. If you have a child or care for an adult with special needs, it can be an even bigger challenge.

Much like myself – special needs children and adults typically don’t care for a change in their routine. It can be a lot to juggle but going into the season prepared will help set you up for success. Here are some tips to help make this holiday season a success for your family.


I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to try and maintain your normal routine as much as possible. If you can help them to bed at the same time, have meals at the same time and stick to their normal patterns, it will make the holidays much more bearable for everyone.

Get a sitter

If you plan on staying out late or know you’re going to be somewhere crowded, it would likely be best to find someone who can stay at home or a place locally who offers care and support or places for adults to hang out during chaotic times. They often don’t like going out in crowds or loud places and keeping them home or finding fun activities for them to enjoy as well, is good for their sanity, plus it gives you an opportunity for a peaceful night out.

Bring food or snacks

Dealing with a picky eater can be very frustrating when there aren’t any food options available for them at gatherings or parties. Packing their favorite snack or meal in a lunchbox can save a lot of heartaches and reduce the risk of everyone having a tough evening.

Come prepared with activities

Headphones, iPads, books or toys are all helpful to prevent a meltdown. Packing a bag with some of their favorite items will help prevent boredom – and items like headphones can help with sensory issues.

Daily work

My friend has a special needs son who absolutely loves school and would be disappointed and angry when there were snow days or when he couldn’t go to school during break. He hated the disruption to his daily routine. One way to combat their frustration is to get with their teachers and get some fun activities that they can do at home over break. Your child’s teacher or therapist often know what some of their favorite school activities are and can help give you fun things to do with them in your free time.

Invite people to your home

Instead of venturing out to family members homes, invite them to yours. This allows your child or adult to stay in the comfort of their own home, and they can retreat to their room when they need peace and quiet. Disruption can be difficult for them, but if they have a safe and quiet place to go, they will likely do just fine.

The excitement during the holidays is fun to experience, but can also create overstimulating circumstances for your special needs adult or children. Do your best to anticipate their reactions and plan ahead accordingly. Your holiday season can be fun and peaceful for everyone with some preparation.

Also, don’t forget to take some time for yourself to enjoy the season. You are a happier and better parent and caregiver when you give yourself some time to rest and recover. It’s not selfish to take time alone, or treat yourself. If that means that you seek outside help, then do it. Reach out to family and friends to come care for your child while you get time to yourself.

Some days are going to be rough and sometimes you’ll have to leave an event early. There’s nothing wrong with throwing in the towel that day and trying again another time. You have to do what is best for your child or special needs adult, and your sanity. Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself – you’re doing great!

Have a happy holiday season!

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