An Autistic Child And Family Events

Written By Autism Parents

A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism

An Autistic Child And Family Events

With Christmas around the corner we thought it a good idea to explore challenges with autistic child and family events.

Before we continue it is always worth noting that every child with autism is different. Just because some can be difficult at family events doesn’t mean that all are.

Below however are some of the ways in which family gatherings can be tough with autistic children.

We also have some tips on how to handle them to follow.

An autistic child at family events

Family events can be joyous occasions but they can also be stressful for parents in our position.

Here are some reasons why they can be a challenge;

Sensory overload

Autistic children may experience sensory overload in crowded and noisy environments.

These environments are common characteristics of many family gatherings.

Bright lights, loud conversations, and various smells can be overwhelming, causing stress and anxiety for the child.

Understanding and providing a quiet space or sensory-friendly options can make a significant difference.

Autistic child family events
An autistic child may struggle at family events

Social difficulties

Many autistic children face challenges in social communication and socialising in general.

Family gatherings often involve complex social interactions and expectations, which can be confusing and anxiety-inducing.

Even something as simple as greeting each other at the door can be difficult for some autistic children.

Encouraging family members to be patient, use clear communication, and respect the child’s pace in social interactions can help create a more comfortable atmosphere.

Routine disruption

If you think about it, a family gathering is one giant break to routine.

Autistic children often thrive on routine, so family gatherings can disrupt their usual schedules.

Changes in mealtime, bedtime, or other routines may lead to increased stress and discomfort.

Planning ahead and communicating any schedule changes in advance can help prepare the child for the upcoming adjustments.


Flowing the same theme as routine disruption, unpredictability can be a real challenge for autistic children.

Family gatherings can be unpredictable, with unexpected surprises, loud laughter, or sudden movements.

Autistic kids may find it challenging to cope with such unpredictability.

Providing a visual schedule or letting the child know what to expect can help ease anxiety and make the environment more predictable.

What can parents do to make these events run smoothly?

As mentioned above there are some tactics you can try to help your child in these situations.

Encourage empathy in your family

Family dynamics can be a challenge when a child has special needs.

It is crucial for family members to cultivate empathy and acceptance.

Understanding that autistic children may express themselves differently, have unique preferences, or require special accommodations fosters a more welcoming atmosphere.

Encourage family members to learn about autism and embrace the child’s individuality.

Tailor the gathering to your child

One thing you can do is consider incorporating sensory-friendly activities into family gatherings.

These can include quiet games, a designated quiet space, or activities that cater to the child’s sensory preferences.

This not only helps the autistic child but can also enhance the overall experience for everyone.

Plan ahead

A lot of autistic children respond well when they know what to expect.

By whatever means works for your child you can try and prepare them for the gathering way in advance.

Something which works well in our household is showing our daughter photos of where we are going and who is going to be there.

We will engage in this tactic two or three times in the days leading up to the event. For us it is simply scrolling through our phones showing relevant pictures.

“Auntie Sam will be there… do you remember this house… there will be food on this table”.

All of these visual hints give our child a pre warning of what to expect.

Bring tools

You will know your child better than anyone else so consider what will make the event more comfortable for them.

Tools such as noise cancelling headphones or electronic devices can help.

Or it could be something like a weighted blanket which many autistic children find relaxing.

Even something such as bringing your own cutlery and plates can give your child the comforting feeling of home away from home.

Summary – An autistic child and family events

While family gatherings can be challenging for autistic children, a thoughtful and sensitive approach can make a world of difference.

By understanding the unique needs of autistic children and implementing simple strategies, families can ensure that these events can be as comfortable as possible.

Parents should not be afraid to operate a method of trial and error and also bring items from home which they know will help.

Good luck everyone.

Any tips or ideas?

We would love to hear from you if you have got any techniques or ideas for our readers to try.

Be sure to leave a comment if any of the above has helped or if you have any ideas we can add to this article.

Also be sure to search for any other articles you might find helpful.

Try for example searching below for topics like ‘meltdown’ or ‘communication’.

About the author

A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism.

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