The Christmas season can sometimes be a very challenging time of the year for autistic children.

There are all sorts of unpredictable changes to usual daily life in the lead up to Christmas and the school holidays such as:

  • changes to the environment at home, school and in the community with bright lights and decorations
  • people wearing different clothes such as Christmas related costumes and outfits
  • changes to school routine such as Christmas play rehearsals, outings and parties
  • family visits and trips
  • people acting different because they are excited about the holidays or just too cold because of the weather!
  • presents (what is in that box!?)

In order to prepare for these changes, it can really help to have a visual calendar which includes any upcoming events and changes. It is important the calendar is somewhere the child can see it, perhaps on the wall of their bedroom or visible in the classroom.

This is to help visually prepare the child in advance of which days will be different and introduce the idea of the different event.

autism Christmas holiday count down calendar

The calendar can be made in any way that makes sense to the child- for example, a written calendar or a picture calendar with images and photos.

Here is an example I made using InPrint 3. You can download the editable calendar below!

You can use the symbols provided or any images to help a child understand what is happening on a specific day.

It will really help if the calendar is marked off by your child or children each day, to make it clear to them which day it is and what may be happening on the next day.

Model how to do this with your child. You may want to get into a routine of marking the calendar each day at the same time. This can be done by ticking or marking the day with a pen.

It is also important to make sure the school holidays are marked on the calendar, or to have a separate school holiday countdown calendar. This is to aid the transition between school and the holidays and to make it clear how many days are left before returning to school.

Have a very merry holiday season all!

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Steph Reed

Hi I’m Steph Reed, an Autism Specialist Teacher and Consultant. Following 10 years of teaching many incredible autistic young people with complex needs, I developed and led a School Autism Outreach Service, and have also been part of a senior leadership team as SENCo and Inclusion Leader. I now provide outreach, training and consultancy with practical support to schools, services and families using personalised, child-centered and evidence-based approaches. I also have personal experience of learning ‘differently’ and with success! I am here to support you in feeling confident and skilled in meeting diverse needs and ensuring children are reaching their potential.


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