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Navigating Thanksgiving: A Guide for Teens with Autism

Navigating Thanksgiving: A Guide for Teens with Autism

As Thanksgiving approaches, families across the country are busy preparing for a day filled with gratitude, delicious food, and cherished moments. For teenagers with autism, navigating the sensory-rich and socially demanding holiday can pose unique challenges. However, with thoughtful planning and understanding, families can create an enjoyable Thanksgiving experience for everyone. In this blog, we'll explore tips and strategies for teens with autism to make the most of the Thanksgiving celebration.

Preparation is Key:

Before the big day arrives, preparing your teen for what to expect is helpful. Discuss the schedule, who will be attending, and any potential changes to the environment. Creating a visual schedule or using social stories can benefit autistic individuals, providing a concrete and visual representation of the day's events.

Sensory-Friendly Spaces:

Thanksgiving gatherings often involve bustling kitchens, loud conversations, and various smells. Recognizing that sensory sensitivities vary, consider creating a designated quiet space where your teen can retreat if the festivities become overwhelming. Provide noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, or other sensory-friendly items that can help manage sensory input

Involve Them in Preparations:

Engaging teens with autism in the preparation process can foster a sense of involvement and control. Whether helping with simple cooking tasks, setting the table, or creating decorations, allowing them to contribute in a way that aligns with their interests can make the holiday more meaningful.

Communicate Expectations:

Clearly communicate expectations for social interactions during the celebration. If your teen wants limited social engagement, please inform family members in advance to avoid unnecessary stress. Conversely, if they are comfortable with interaction, encourage relatives to initiate conversation in a patient and understanding manner.

Respect Dietary Preferences:

Many Thanksgiving meals revolve around traditional dishes, but it's essential to consider dietary preferences or restrictions. Some individuals with autism may have specific dietary needs or aversions. Communicate these requirements to family members or consider alternative options accommodating everyone's needs.

Use Visual Supports:

Visual support, such as visible schedules, cue cards, or social scripts, can be valuable tools for autistic individuals. These aids can help teens understand and navigate social situations, making the Thanksgiving celebration more predictable and less stressful.

Encourage Breaks:

Thanksgiving can be a long day; even neurotypical individuals may need breaks. Encourage your teen to take breaks when needed, whether it's a short walk, some time alone in a quiet space, or engaging in a preferred activity. This can help prevent sensory overload and support their overall well-being.

By incorporating thoughtful planning and understanding into your Thanksgiving celebration, you can create an inclusive and enjoyable experience for autistic teens. Remember that every individual is unique, so it's essential to tailor strategies to meet your teen's needs and preferences. With a supportive environment, open communication, and a dash of flexibility, Thanksgiving can be a time for gratitude and connection for everyone in the family.


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