Autism – What tips do you have for supporting autistic children through the holiday season?

Autism and the holiday season
Autism and the holiday season

What tips do you have for supporting autistic children through the holiday season?

Which was the question we asked our Twitter followers and Facebook followers last week.  I have to confess an ulterior motive.  Out ten year old (who is on the autism spectrum) is not great at Christmas so any advice is rather handy.

Diet is important with autism so Janet’s advice above was very useful.  Has anyone else tried Stevia?  What do you think? 


Torrie told us “My brother tends to go backward as holidays mess with his routine, we allow for the extra stress on him (eg. Dont make a fuss over bed wetting and allow for his change of mood) Understanding that for the majority of the year he is up dressed in his uniform, same shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, same breakfast time and choices then out on the bus, being home all day is a challenge for him. We just be as supportive as we can and try to give him something. To do each day. Also having food available at the time as school breaks can help him be more relaxed too. :”  Indeed quite a few of our readers felt that Christmas and the holiday season threw up quite few problems!

Peace and Quiet

Yes pretty obvious but many of us (that means me) forget these basic rules when the sherry is cracked open!

On Twitter we were told!


While on Facebook Susanna suggested “Allow them quiet time to themselves. Give them time to open gifts. Or allow them to open some gifts ahead of time. Encourage them to participate with family, but don’t force it.” Tracy went further “Just be respectful of their space and have a quiet space for them away from everything if need. And beaware of their body language.” The body language is something to look out and it is a great point!

“Make everything as quiet as possible IDC I am not putting up my tree its been a rough year, and if you have to no matter what anyone says have your family visit you don’t go out of your way for anyone if you know its gonna be hard on your child period feelings may be hurt #sorrynotsorry”. So do think of sensory issues.

Use social stories to help prepare!

If you have not done so before do have a look at Trisha Katkin’s ideas for writing social stories. You can check out her ideas and suggestions here!

But preparation is mentioned by Richard “As someone with Autism, I like to maintain a routine as much as possible, my mom tells my other relatives to limit their interactions with me, esp. talking to me, wishing me Happy Holidays, sending cards, etc., and I also dislike Christmas music, so I listen to some of my favorite songs on YouTube when I have the time.)”

Autism Awareness Christmas Tree Decoration
Autism Awareness Christmas Tree Decoration
Of course other people take a different view have a different perspective. “My boy is very adaptable, so what I will write might not be good for everyone. That said, a place to go that is quiet helps a lot. He likes water, so I fill up a sink halfway and put some sensory fidgets in it so he can de-escalate that way. Heck, I like it too. Another thing is letting him sit near the tree and let others know that he will approach them if he wants to talk. Headphones aren’t used often but are available. Our lives has been chaotic and unfortunately he has had to adjust. So schedules aren’t always an option. Luckily he gets it. If need be, we take a quick walk, or if he absolutely cannot take another gathering, we stay home and watch movies.” according to Ruth.

Indeed going with the flow was a theme from a couple of our readers.  Kirstin said “My aspie goes with the flow because we’ve never let her get stuck in routines. The real world can’t always have routines so it’s best to throw a speedup in the path now and then. She goes with us to all family gatherings and other holiday stuff.” And “I have never planned my Christmas around my autistic son. We just go with the flow. He never eats with us anyway so the dinner is no problem as we make him his own foods. We do always make sure he comes out to be social and talk to everyone. My son has come such a long way because we go with the flow and push him out of his comfort zone. He is an amazing kid, and handles all events and transitions well now. I don’t treat my son like he is autistic and I have very high expectations for him.” came over from Karyn.

No worries and do a  bit less

Interesting some of our readers felt the holiday season is no biggie (as Buffy) would say! Ruth suggested “We no longer feel the need to do everything. We keep the same routines as much as possible and only do a few extra things at my granddaughter’s pace. This means less decorations around the house, less visiting, less holiday activities, but more immediate family time and truthfully a more enjoyable and less stressful holiday season for all of us.”

Sensory overload

David told us “Whatever sensory overload they struggle with exposure of it should be limited. In this season where all our senses get greatly bombarded the harder the one to deal with should be what you focus on limiting”

“This year I’m gradually decorating the house for Christmas as my son has found it all a bit too much in previous years. Sensory calming lighting too I’ve found also helps my son feel calm xxxx and try not for it to be all too much having a quiet room also helps with my son x” said Estelle.


Finally Nicky gave us these wise words “Don’t force a tradition that makes them uncomfortable for the sake of your own nostalgia”.

Over to you

We hope you find these tips of use this holiday season.

Do you have any you would like to share with others.  If so please add your thoughts to the comments section below.

Many thanks in advance


12 tips for a healthy Christmas and Thanksgiving

Tips for a safe Christmas and Thanksgiving
Tips for a safe Christmas and Thanksgiving

From defrosting turkey to using leftovers, these food safety tips will help stop your turkey from knocking the stuffing out of you this Christmas. (and Thanksgiving)

Avoid cross-contamination

Keep all raw food, whether it’s turkey or vegetables, separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. Use separate chopping boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Raw foods can contain harmful bacteria that are spread very easily to anything they touch, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.

Set the fridge to 5°C

Store food that needs to be chilled in the fridge until you need it. Make sure the fridge temperature is below 5°C. Don’t pack food too tightly, as the cold air needs to circulate to cool food down. If you’re storing food such as fresh vegetables outside in a garage or shed, keep them in a sealed container.

Wash your hands

Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially when handling and preparing raw meat and poultry. You also need to remember to wash and dry your hands after going to the toilet, touching the bin or touching any pets. Bugs are spread between food, surfaces and utensils most effectively on wet or damp hands.

Defrost turkey safely

Defrost the turkey on a large dish and cover, preferably in the fridge. Remove the giblets and the neck to speed up thawing. Alternatively, defrost the turkey in a cool, clean place where the temperature is fairly constant. Keep in mind that the temperature of where the turkey is kept will affect thawing times.

Turkey defrosting times

It can take up to 48 hours for a large turkey to thaw. To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, check the packaging. If there aren’t any defrosting instructions, use the following times as a guide:

in a fridge at 4ºC (39ºF), allow about 10 to 12 hours per kg

in a cool room (below 17.5ºC, 64ºF), allow approximately three to four hours per kg

at room temperature (about 20ºC, 68ºF), allow approximately two hours per kg

A turkey is fully defrosted when there are no ice crystals inside the cavity and the meat is soft when you insert a fork or skewer. Once thawed, store it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. If this isn’t possible, you should cook it immediately.

Don’t wash the bird

Eighty per cent of people say they wash their turkeys before cooking them, but this significantly increases the risk of food poisoning by splashing germs around the kitchen. Don’t wash your bird, because it will only spread germs. Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria that might be present.

Cook turkey properly

Seventeen per cent of people aren’t sure how to tell when their turkey is cooked. Make sure your turkey is steaming hot all the way through before serving. When you cut into the thickest part of the turkey, none of the meat should be pink. If juices flow out when you pierce the turkey or when you press the thigh, they should be clear. If you’re using a temperature probe or food thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) reaches at least 70°C for two minutes.

Find out more about turkey cooking times.

Goose and other birds

Other birds, such as goose and duck, have different cooking times and temperatures. The oven should always be hotter for duck and goose in order to melt the fat under the skin.

goose should be cooked in a preheated oven at 200ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7 for 35 minutes per kg

duck should be cooked in a preheated oven for 45 minutes per kg at 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6

chicken should be cooked in a preheated oven at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes

Wash your veg

Most of the bacteria on vegetables will be in the soil attached to the produce. Washing to remove any soil is therefore particularly important. When you wash vegetables, don’t just hold them under the running tap. Rub them under water, for example in a bowl of fresh water. Start with the least soiled items first and give each of them a final rinse. Washing loose produce is particularly important, as it tends to have more soil attached to it than pre-packaged fruit and vegetables.

Know your dates

Sniffing food is not a reliable way of telling whether food is still safe to eat. Some harmful bacteria don’t always change the way foods smell, taste or look. Food with a “use-by” date goes off quite quickly and it can be dangerous to eat after this date. Food with a “best before” date is longer-lasting. It may not be at its best quality after this date but should be safe to eat. Eggs can be eaten a day or two after their best before date, as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked, such as a cake.

Preparing a buffet

Cold items for a buffet should remain covered and in the fridge until the last minute. Don’t keep them out for more than four hours. Food kept out for longer could be open to harmful bacteria if left to get warm at room temperature. Foods which are cooked and intended to be served cold should be cooled as quickly as possible, ideally within one to two hours. You can cool food down faster by separating it into small batches, placing it in a container and placing the container in a shallow dish of cold water.

Cool leftovers

Cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 minutes, then cover and refrigerate. Splitting food into smaller portions can help cooling. Use leftovers within two days and reheat until they are steaming hot all the way through. Don’t reheat leftovers more than once. If you want to keep leftovers longer than two days, you can freeze them instead. Cool leftovers as described above before putting them in the freezer. Once defrosted, don’t refreeze the leftovers unless you cook them again first.

Happy Orthodox and Coptic Christmas to all our readers celebrating

Happy Orthodox Christmas to everyone reading.

So Merry Christmas in Russian, Greek, Georgian, Serbian, Arabic, Romanian, Ukrainian and Amharic!

Счастливого рождества!


გილოცავ შობა-ახალ წელს

Христос се роди

عيد ميلاد مجيد

Crăciun Fericit

‘Христос Рождається’

Happy Orthodox and Coptic Christmas to all our readers
Happy Orthodox and Coptic Christmas to all our readers

Happy Orthodox Christmas to all those celebrating

As you may know today is Christmas day in many Easter Churches. We would like to wish all those celebrating a very happy Christmas.

Happy Orthodox Christmas
Happy Orthodox Christmas

Christmas Starts Here – ‘One in a million’ girl with ultra-rare condition is first in line to meet Santa

Bradgate Park Christmas Fair
Bradgate Park Christmas Fair

A five year old girl from Leicester – the only known UK sufferer of an extremely rare condition which causes growths to rapidly develop over her eyes – is to be the first child to meet Santa a Christmas fair on tomorrow – two days ahead of its public opening on Saturday 6 December.

Shinay Godfrey, a patient at Leicester’s Hospitals, was first diagnosed with the condition called Plasminogen Deficiency Type 1 when she was three. She had already endured repeated operations to her right eye to remove the growths.

Richard Gooding, consultant haematologist for Leicester’s Hospitals, explains: “The condition is incredibly rare and difficult to recognise. It is seen in perhaps one in a million people. As is the case with Shinay, the condition tends to cause sticky deposits on the eyes which harden into growths and cause significant problems with vision.”

To keep the condition under control Shinay will need to go to hospital for treatment every two weeks for the rest of her life.

Dr Gooding says: “At present there is no cure but it can be controlled with regular treatment which involves intravenous therapy every few weeks. So far her growths have not returned.”

The rarity of the condition means there is little public awareness of Plasminogen Deficiency Type 1. As a result, Shinay’s mum, Donna Godfrey is concerned sufferers don’t know what they have. She adds: “Raising awareness of this illness is very important to me. Unfortunately there are few people who understand what it is so there are few people I can talk to about it.

“That said, the support we have had from the play specialists and nurses at the Leicester Children’s Hospital has been fantastic. We are eternally grateful for their continued care and treatment.”

Santa’s Woodland Glade Grotto at Bradgate Park will be open to the public from 11am-4pm every weekend up until Christmas. All money raised will go to local charities including LOROS, Spinal Muscular Atrophy Support, Action for Children and the Leicester Hospitals Charity.

Bradgate Park Deputy Head Ranger, Matthew Molesdale, whose team are organising the Christmas Fair and Santa’s visit said: “Our first Christmas Fair last year was a great success and we were pleased to be able to team up with Action for Children to help Santa raise money for them. This year we are delighted to be extending Santa’s stay with us to help more local charities.”

Debbie Adlerstein from Leicester Hospitals Charity says: “It is great for us to be able to work together with another local charity, the Bradgate Park Trust, to help Santa put a smile on children’s faces at Christmas.”

The Christmas Fair takes place this weekend, 6th and 7th December from 10am to 3pm. It will showcase local food producers, artists and craftspeople and will feature entertainment from the Syston Brass Band, local Morris dancers and the Newtown Linford Choral Society.

For more information visit: