Holiday Tips for You and Your Child with Disabilities and Developmental Needs

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The holidays are almost here and that means decorations, yummy treats, excited little ones and potentially stress for families. Here are some tips on how to manage your expectations throughout this festive season while still enjoying some of that holiday magic with your family.


  1. Say no to plans if it’s too stressful for your child or yourself. Choose to stay home and have family come to you if that is easier for your family.
  2. Try to stick to the usual bedtime routine throughout the winter break from school. Sticking to a predictable schedule so that routines are maintained, can help when it’s time to go back to school in the new year.
  3. Don’t worry about missed therapy appointments. Breaks can be good for everyone!
  4. Keep expectations realistic. Be sure to share your concerns or tips with family and friends if you are attending an event where your child may have some anxiety. Let the host know you may need to leave early and without saying goodbye.  
  5. If you celebrate Christmas and your child is interested in having a visit with Santa, you can find a sensory-friendly time to visit Santa through your local mall or Autism Ontario.
  6. Looking for accessible and inclusive winter and holiday family events? Try a holiday drive thru or attend a virtual party for kids and youth with disabilities and/or developmental needs (see the CTN calendar or check our Facebook page).
  7. Consider creating a new tradition for your family that is meaningful to your child (wearing matching pjs, baking a new holiday recipe, listening to a special song, watching a holiday movie together, etc.).
  8. Keep to plans that are within your child’s current comfort level. This may be different from last holiday season.
  9. Give back to the community with a donation to a food drive, toy drive or local charity (like the CTN Family Fund)…giving back feels good! Involve your child - ask your child about what cause or organization they want to supporter let them pick out your family’s donation.
  10. If your child has expressed an interest, get them involved in planning, baking, shopping or gift wrapping. Ask for help! If you need some time to get some of the holiday tasks completed or just have a few minutes for yourself, ask someone you trust to watch your child or consider some respite opportunities.

Here are a few of our favourite holiday articles for families:

10 Ways to Make Holidays Easier for Children with Developmental Disabilities (Easter Seals)
Holiday Stress in a Special Needs Household
Surviving and Enjoying the Holidays
10 Tips for Including People with Disabilities in your Holiday Celebrations
How to Make your Holidays More Accessible