When neurodivergent people (those with ADHD, autism, etc.) and neurotypical people come together to celebrate the holidays, it can be challenging. Understanding and appreciating our differences is one way to make sure everyone is accommodated and respected.
If you’re attending or hosting a neurodiverse gathering, here are 9 tips for making your gathering or event accessible and enjoyable for all:
🤫 1. Designate a quiet area 🤫
If you're a host, include relaxing items in a room. This could be puzzles, a weighted blanket, and fidget toys. Have a fun movie on if there’s a tv or tablet.
If you’re neurodivergent or a parent, ask your host where you can retreat to when things become overwhelming. You might bring noise-canceling headphones, a game or book.
✍ 2. Communicate your expectations and plans ✍
If you’re a host, check in with neurodivergent guests to ask “How can I help you feel more comfortable?”
If you’re the parent of an autistic child or a neurodivergent individual, let your party know about any triggers and needs, so they can prepare accommodations if necessary. You might ask that the music volume stay low or ask for the schedule beforehand.
🌽 3. Have “safe” foods available 🌽
Many neurodivergent people have food sensitivities, food allergies, or are selective or picky eaters.
If you’re hosting, ask each guest to bring a delicious dish, that way everyone has at least one thing they like.
If you’re neurodivergent or a parent, it’s totally okay to bring your own safe food options with you or eat beforehand.
👚 4. The dress code should comfortable 👚
Many neurodivergent people (especially those with autism) have sensitivities to certain fabrics and textures.
🤼 5. Don’t force physical contact 🤼
Nobody, including children, owe anyone physical contact.
If you feel your wishes are not being respected, or you are uncomfortable with something, be clear and direct about it. You can also offer an alternative you are comfortable with (e.g., fistbump instead of hug).
😎 6. Keep it low key 😎
Many neurodivergent people (especially those with autism) have sensitivities to light, sound, texture, scents, etc.
⏰ 7. Allow flexibility in arrivals, departures, and duration of gatherings ⏰
If you’re hosting, offer guests general arrival and departure times and let them know they’re free to come and go as they need to.
It’s okay to skip some events or duck out early, if necessary.
😍 8. Make the gathering a judgment-free zone 😍
Avoid negative or judgmental comments. Refrain from drawing attention to what someone eats, how much, or how little.
❤ 9. Break with tradition or start new ones ❤
Be vocal about what’s best and most comfortable for you and your family. Feel empowered to make suggestions that can improve special gatherings and make them more accessible.
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