Christmas at an Autism House

Lead up to Christmas isnt the same in an Autism house as it is in a neuro-typical house. No Santa’s watching do your best, No Elf on the shelf magic, No countdown, No asking/anticipating, no begging.

We decorate because WE love it. We go to all the events because WE love it. We want Nolan to have every single opportunity to love Christmas and we never know when he will suddenly find his thing, find his smiles, find his joy….so we keep doing, we keep offering, and we keep teaching.

What we learned this year:


  • If we dress him in footed pjs, there is no gap or bunching in the book to pant meet up and he is happy.
  • If he wears the thinner mittens so he can move his hands he is happier.
  • He likes to see parades lights and he likes the candy
  • Noises are a no go. We went to the small parade and all the fire trucks were all in once place. He hated it but moving down the block a bit made it ok. We went to another bigger parade and they had a firetruck every 5 floats or so…so every time we got him calmed down he freaked out again.
  • Headphones help but do not solve the problem.
  • Sitting in the locked car (buckled in with his iPad is soothing if need be).

Christmas Tree

  • Nolan likes the tree and noticed it this year
  • He was able to try putting the ornaments on. He got his thumbs in the loops as we taught him and went to hang it on the tree, but struggled with actually getting it on the branch.
  • Nolan likes to touch the bells and the icicles –the icicles go in the mouth, but we are fine with it. We had to accept that we would all be happier people if he was able to touch the tree.


  • Nolan likes lights–lights to music is a hit too!
  • Nolan is great with going to see lights on foot (he is better when he is dressed warm enough and he really likes to be in the back carrier).
  • The lines can ruin lights.
  • cold ankles (not wearing footy pjs as a base layer) can ruin a light show/Santa visit


  • Santa is ok but if he’s cold, uncomfortable, or sick he’s not happening.
  • If daddy can help with sensory and Santa can take the time to get on his level (without mom pressuring for photos) it can turn around.


  • Nolan does not like lines. It is worse when the lines are slow and for something he cannot see.
  • sitting idle is one of his least favorite things


  • He loves the music
  • He didn’t mind the people
  • The heat of the closeness bothered him a bit, but removing his sweater helped.
  • The fidget toys we packed (we packed a lot) helped. He also liked daddy’s beard.
  • Nolan also put his hand out for communion so he is observing
  • Nolan got the shivers and a boost of energy when he was blessed–maybe he was really feeling the Holy Spirit.

Opening Gifts

  • Nolan could care less about opening gifts, but will do it if he is told to. This is an improvement from last year.
  • Nolan doesn’t ask for gifts and we have no idea if he is going to like things so we just try something new–this year we seemed to do really well. We got a lot of smiles and a lot of interaction with the toys/sensory toys.


  • Nolan does not smile for photos, but he is getting better at eye contact
  • 2 faces looking in the direction of the camera is a win for posed shots
  • Candid photos are where we find the most success.
  • The bluetooth remote with the camera on the tri-pod got a lot of great shots while allowing me to be in the moment with the kids. I am there opening the gifts and encouraging the use of toys not behind the camera.
  • I honestly believe if it was socially acceptable to not wear pants in all photos we would get a lot more smiles.


  • Nolan loves ice cubes and will steal them from any cup–his favorite is Old Fashions–those ice cubes are the best.
  • Soda is great, pounding on 2 liters is fun, and drinking from a bottle is better than a cup.
  • Grilled cheese is about all he is eating right now, so have that accessible. Sweets are a yes as well.
  • We need to have sensory activities packed but he will find a vent to hit instead. If there is a vent he will find it and drum it.
  • Cold drinks are best.
  • Sounds/music is ok–just no sirens.
  • Hope you like drumming, he will drum on anything, including the drums get gets as gifts.
  • Brushing teeth after all the sugar will still suck
  • Sitting still is hard, but he can do it–just don’t expect it too long.
  • He will find any and all grates and hit them and run his fingers up and down them. Vents on doors, on bubblers, on floors, etc.
  • Daddy’s facial hair makes a good sensory activity in a pinch.


  • Every event gets a list. We think of the time/meals we will be there and pack accordingly. If a meal is involved, we need Nemechek things, if up to bed time, sleep meds are needed.
  • On the Nemechek protocol so going to any party involves packing fish oil, cookies to bribe to consumption of said fish oil, extra virgin olive oil, inulin, and something he drinks to stir the inulin into.
  • Nolan got sick so bringing antibiotics was also on the list
  • Sensory toys need to be packed if we are going to be in one spot
  • If we are walking, the carrier needs to be packed

Keep it simple

  • When you are bringing the cookies to the Christmas party at school, buy a roll of sugar cookies, slice them, put the sprinkles in while the dough is raw, and bake. bing, bang. done. No frosting, kids help but its easy, and cute project done simple.
  • When your husband takes the left over cookies from the party to work, and you need cookies for Santa and your mother in law drops off a bunch of cookies you move them from her pan to the plate and call it done.


  • Apparently we always get sick between Christmas and New Years every year.
  • Nolan will whine and not tell you what is wrong and it is usually because he is sick.

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