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thanksgivingThanksgiving can be a frenetic time of year that may overshadow the “Hallmark” moment we all try to make of it  In fact, for a child with various isms, Thanksgiving can be torture.  To them, it means a change of routine, unfamiliar people coming in and out of the home, and of course, new sights, smells and noises.  All of this tortuous commotion can overload their sensitive senses.

For the sake of our children with various isms, we need to ease into Thanksgiving. Discover six tips to set you on the right path >>

Establish Parameters

Establish some personal parameters for your Thanksgiving celebration.

With younger children, you could simply have a small get together vs. a large family gathering.

Consider hosting the holiday dinner vs. traveling.  For many children, long travel by car or plane just sets off a whole other set of challenges.

If there will be a few children, set up a kids table and feed the kids before meal time.

Establish advanced parameters for your immediate family to ensure a more pleasant experience.

Increase Familiarity

Help your child become familiar with lesser known guests.

Start by making picture cards of the people who will be present for the holiday gathering.  With your child, review the picture cards each night for a week leading up to Thanksgiving day.

If possible, Skype or Facetime with those who will be attending.  This will help your child to become more  accustomed to the voices and faces of the people who ordinarily are not in their daily lives.

If your child uses sign language to communicate, teach a few signs to the guests in advance of their visit.  This will help to foster communication and make for a more inclusive day.

Tone Down the Noise

Football is one of the great joys of Thanksgiving Day. However, football games and avid armchair quarterbacks can be noisy!

Consider having the football watchers located out of the main hub of the house. A basement recreation room, perhaps?

At the very least, have the sound turned down to a reasonable level.  Request that guests use silent cheers instead of abrupt applause and yelling.

If all else fails, have earplugs or headphones on standby.

Rehearse Thanksgiving

Consider having a Thanksgiving Rehearsal Dinner.  This will allow time for your child to become used to the smells and sounds of Thanksgiving.  Rehearse a small version of the celebration the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Make a small turkey or chicken.  Have your child help you in the kitchen and discover how noisy all the clanging pots and pans can be.

This is a good opportunity to get some advanced cooking done when the “pressure” is not on.

After all, one can enjoy more than a single pumpkin pie in a week!

Take Cues from Your Child

Children know their own limitations.

Try to have your celebration earlier in the day when your child is more rested.

If your child seems overwhelmed and you are the visitor, leave early.  A short but sweet Thanksgiving day is better than one which was unpleasant for all.

If you are hosting, maybe a family member can take your child for a walk around the block to remove them from the chaotic environment.  This will provide a welcomed distraction for your child to decompress from the sensory overload.

Educate Others

I know that Thanksgiving Day is a national “hugging” holiday.

Depending on the needs of your child, you may need to educate visitors if your child does not like to be hugged.

Camera flashes can set off some children putting them into visual overload. If this is the case with your child, let guests know in advance.

Share with all your visitors what your child can and cannot handle. Do so before all convene – perhaps with a holiday email greeting?

Keep in mind, no family is able to create the unrealistic “Hallmark” family experience.  Trying to create this perfect image in your head will only add additional stress to everyone involved.  Thanksgiving can be a bit frenetic, but with these tips and tips from others here at Special-Ism, we hope you find solutions to some potential holiday challenges.