This is a quick list of the things that I have learned as an autism mom to make the holidays a whole lot easier for our family.
My first and foremost suggestion is if you can host the party in your home, do it. Your kid is always going to be more comfortable being in their own environment with their own things. This will be our second year hosting Christmas in our home, and I believe it is the best thing we can do for Noah to lessen his stress and anxiety.
If you do adventure out, bring whatever you need necessary to keep your kid happy as long as possible. Snacks, iPad, sensory toys, whatever it may be. Christmas Eve we go to a family member's home, and this year we are bringing a pack n play, a white noise fish tank, blankets, a pillow, an iPad, headphones and Noah's own dinner and snacks. At this point our family knows we don't travel lightly with Noah, and they are more than okay with it. I truly believe most the time people would be, you just have to speak up.
Also speak up about what your kid doesn't like, or things that could cause a sensory overload or meltdown. Your child is not expected to give great grandma a hug because that's what you're "supposed" to do. Tell your family and friends these things in advance. It may come off a little abrasive, but I think in the end they will be thankful to know how to read you child better.
If bribes work, bring on all the bribes. Candy, iPad-even at dinner. Don't let anyone make you feel bad about whatever you have to do to keep your child happy. And if someone has something to say, that don't live in our world and don't have the slightest clue, so in one ear and out the other.
If you're like me, I still like to try the typical holiday stuff with Noah. Like Santa and presents. My advice, that I give myself on the daily is to keep you expectations realistic. Simple as that. And don't force anything. This year our visit with Santa was less than three minutes. Noah touched his beard, signed "all done" to me and that was it. Don't stress to much about how things "should" be, and try to make new traditions for you and your family.
If attending a get together is causing too much stress and you really feel it would not be a good idea to go- then don't. Don't be afraid of hurting feelings. Your child's comfort and safety come first, always. Being honest about that is all you can do.
Leave the party while you're in the clear. I think most of us can read our kid's pretty well and can tell when they're about to reach their limit. I would say your goodbyes before hitting that point. Even if it's only been an hour. It's just easier for everyone if you can avoid a meltdown.
Lastly, celebrate any and every victory, no matter how small. Try to see all your kid can do, especially from years prior. For us, Noah meeting Santa with no tears was our little big win. And I am cautiously optimistic for all our parties in the next couple weeks, but plan on taking a little of my own advice to get through.
Hope this was helpful, and always remember it's about you and your family's needs first. Happy Holidays!