How Can You Make Large Family Gatherings Easier For Children On The Spectrum?

How Can You Make Large Family Gatherings Easier For Children On The Spectrum?

I don’t know about you, but in our house the countdown to Christmas has most definitely started. And with two sets of fairly large extended families to keep happy as well as two siblings who have their own children, our thoughts are most definitely on how to juggle the big day and keep everything running as smoothly as possible.

So if you are in a similar position and have a big familiy gathering to organise or attend, these are my top tips:

Stagger Visitors

Whilst it’s likely that at some point in the day many of the visitors will want to be together staggering the times they arrive can definitely make the day feel less overwhelming. It not only gives children a chance to process each new set of visitors, but means that both noise and crowd levels build gradually rather than all at once, which makes it much easier to cope with.

Prepare Children In Advance

Giving children a plan of what the day will look like in advance can really help. Talk them through the plans, the visitors that will be arriving and the order of events. Knowing the expectations of the day will help them to understand and therefore cope better when the day rolls around….. The days I think will be good ones and therefore prepare less well for are almost definitely destined to go less well than I expect. In contrast the events I dread and therefore prepare well for, usually turn out better than anticipated.

Create A Safe Space

Whether it’s a spare room, a den in the corner of the room or a car parked on the drive, having an escape route planned for when things become a little too overwhelming can really help. I have no doubt that our foldable Wigwam will be getting extensive use this Christmas. It’s a great way of enabling children to feel they are part of the action yet allowing them to get away from the parts they struggle with.

Agree On A Code Word Or Signal

For older children having a Code word or signal can really help to break the ice if they need rescuing or things get too much. Whether it’s Great Aunt Maud’s demand for a hug, or Uncle Tom’s quizzing about school – knowing you’ll come running when the going gets tough can make an enormous difference to them feeling comfortable enough to attend the event. Choose a signal or word that gives both you and them a giggle, and it will be an even more effective strategy.

Take Your Toolkit

We all have different things that make us feel secure, whether it’s a screen to hide behind, a soft toy to snuggle or a Calm Pack to help us relax. Don’t feel worried about taking those things with you to events. Those who love you and your children will understand if you turn up with an armful of teddies, or an iPad and headphones – and those that don’t aren’t worth worrying about.

Try Not To Worry

If there is one thing I’ve learnt over the years it’s that adding my anxiety to an already stressful situation is pretty much bound to make the situation a disaster. Being (or at least looking) calm will really help your child to feel the same… and yes this is definitely the hardest tip of all to put into action.


Why not join our lovely, friendly Facebook Group full of parents determined to make sure their children are #UNIQUEANDSUCCESSFUL.

If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.

Or if you’re looking for more personal support to help you take that action, why not check out our Consultancy Services.


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