As someone with a neurodiversity, such as Autism or ADHD, holidays and festive periods can be overwhelming and an unwelcome change to routine.

Many autistic adults or children may need some extra support or time to prepare or may have sensory needs that mean they might struggle with things such as decorations.

A few small tweaks might help an autistic person to better enjoy the holidays. The Neurodevelopmental team, at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, has put together a few tips to think about for anyone that might need additional support over the festive period.

Charlotte Hunter-Didrichsen, Assistant Psychologist, at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Many autistic people can feel overwhelmed with all the change over the holidays, whether that’s change in routine, change in foods, smells, or change in decorations.

We hope that by making a few small changes and planning ahead, everyone can get the most from the holidays, there is no reason to miss out.

It’s important to be mindful of someone’s social battery, unusual visitors or visiting may be overwhelming and lead to upset or behaviour difficulties. Try to plan in lots of downtime. You can also speak to visitors ahead of them arriving to explain that you/your child may need some time away or may not be able to sit at the table for the duration of a meal.”

Other things to think about might be make sure any plans are shared in advance, you could use visual support to back this up; consider anything that might help with sensory differences such as ear defenders; create a quiet and safe space, with a free/busy sign on the outside, which is available as and when needed; plan the most suitable decorations or consider decorating gradually.

Charlotte added: “Autistic people can also become overwhelmed with presents, the amount, the wrapping and unwrapping or the unclear expectations of how to react so managing expectations ahead of time can really help, try talking to family and friends about preferences. Over the holidays the most important thing to remember is don’t feel the pressure to do something just because everyone else is.”


For further information, support or tips to enjoying the holidays please visit Neurodevelopmental support – BDCT