If you have a large family, days like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a real challenge when one of the children, or even adults, has Autism. Now, I'm not saying you have to give into every one of their demands, but above all, listen to what they have to say about how they're feeling and what would help them. People with autism have above average intelligence. They just have some issues turning their feelings into words and understanding how other people function. I cannot stress this enough: family gatherings, with all of their noses and smells, can be a complete nightmare for a child with autism.

If you follow these simple tips to make the party more comfortable for them, it will not only be better for them but the whole family.

Food sensitivities

Strong smells and tastes can be a huge factor in an autistic person's mood. Most people don't know this, but the mere act of eating food that they don't like can cause that person to feel nauseous and upset. These are called Food Sensitivities, which is a term that also refers to the way certain foods can cause a strong leaky gut reaction. Leaky gut is an affliction that affects up to ninety percent of people with autism, and it can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating when the affected person consumes dairy, refined sugars, and gluten, amongst other things.

Obviously, this is a big problem on Thanksgiving or Christmas, where many desserts include all three of these things.

Smells that react negatively with the autistic child can also ruin their overall mood, and it's not always foods that stink. If they tell you being around carrots makes them sick, try to put the carrots away from where they'll be eating.

Also, if they request a special food be made, perhaps their favorite comfort dish, it will usually make the day smoother to make it for them.

Sights and sounds

Crowded rooms can feel like a war zone for the autistic person. In fact, symptoms of autism can often be confused with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. When there's a family party, whether it be for a birthday, Easter, or the winter holidays, always keep an empty room set aside for your child to hide in if they become overwhelmed.

It is often easy to spot when a meltdown is coming on. It can be seen in your child yelling, or maybe covering their ears, or even rocking back and forth. If any of these occur, take them to a quiet room, preferably with dim lighting and maybe a video game or favorite movie to watch. If they're overwhelmed when it's time to eat, or you'd rather them stay within your sight, you can buy them a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Also, try not to crowd them, and sometimes they won't want to be touched either, so explain to Aunt Sharon that a big hug and kiss may not be the appropriate greeting. The child isn't trying to be rude, they're just honestly doing their best.