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December 5, 2022


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The Real Reasons Autistic People Are Stressed During the Holiday Season

By Terra Vance


Holidays are thrilling times for a lot of people, but autistics– even if they love the season– tend to be extra stressed. One grievance I’ve consistently seen from neurotypical/non-autistic parents and partners of autistics is that they struggle with understanding how their autistic loved one handles birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions.


Autistic differences– social, emotional, sensory, and cognitive– impact the way we perceive the world, form values, rank priorities, and interact with loved ones. For example, because of the our brains are structured, we need to know what is happening in advance.

Sensory Issues

Every autistic person’s sensory profile is unique. Some people festoon their food with salt, hot sauce, vinegar, onions, and slimy and lumpy condiments, and some can only stand the smell, taste, and texture of the most plain of dry crackers. Some don’t notice when they’re hot or cold, and some can’t tolerate two degrees above or below room temperature.

Faking It

Autistic people generally have the value that faking it and performing is unacceptable, which is already at odds with society. We don’t want you to lie to us to make us feel better, so we’re already worrying because we don’t know when you say things like, “Oh, don’t get me anything,” or “I don’t need anything,” or “Whatever you get me will be fine,” if you really mean that you don’t expect a gift.

Because if we say we don’t want anything, that is literally what we mean.

Consumerism, Greed, and Waste

Greta Thunberg is amazing, but she’s not unique among autistics. Most of us have extremely passionate beliefs that we don’t compromise, and a lot of those include environmental protection, climate science, ending poverty (including our own, for many of us), food scarcity, homelessness, humane treatment of animals, other causes that are deemed “political” to most people.

Social Pressures

There’s much overlap in some of these categories. There’s social pressure to waste, to endure sensory overwhelm, to be inauthentic, etc. Conformity goes against the autistic neurology in ways that non-autistic people can’t really understand.

The Hot Take

Your autistic family members, students, partners, friends, and co-workers aren’t just the sum of their sensory or social differences. They’re complicated, thoughtful, social, loving, respectful people who have different needs– and also different priorities and values. Those needs and priorities are not less valid and shouldn’t be treated like an inconvenience.

Practicing holidays like an autistic person might would likely mean letting go of a lot of tradition, but they might also lead to a shift in perspective that leads for deeper, more meaningful holiday interactions that actually validate and solidify relationships.


Respite is a service that provides a temporary break between the family caregiver and the care recipient. It is most important for caregivers to plan ahead if possible when they begin their caregiving activities to access intermittent breaks from caregiving.

The Autism Society of Indiana provides wonderful respite services for families across the state. For more information email, info@inautism.org

Going on a family vacation can be great fun but also a bit stressful. Stress may increase when the preparations include accommodations for an autistic child or adult. We offer these tips, along with some recommended websites and apps that can help you prepare your family for a smooth trip.

Milestones provides coaching services to all family members, professionals, and self-advocates. Services include connecting participants to resources and providing general information and assistance. We also offer a free Autism Helpdesk. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at 216.464.7600 or info@milestones.org.



  • Support our Direct Care Program: Whom provided over 56,000 hours to families and individuals affected by autism through Respite Care and Participant Assistance & Care (PAC) services through all 92 counties in Indiana.
  • Support our Career Services as they work to provide both training and wraparound employment support for individuals with autism over the age of 14.

Make an impact and contribute a gift to one of our amazing programs at the Autism Society of Indiana today! 


Help the Autism Society continue its work by joining us in Giving!

In 2022, ASI was able to provide thousands of communication boards to all 72 county police departments, Indiana local fire departments, and other first responders in the state! 

In 2022, ASI was able to provide training such as, Autism 101 and the Family Support Wavier, to 500+ individuals in the autism community. 

In 2022, ASI was able to maintain 5 support groups for families and caregivers affected by Autism. 

In 2022, ASI events such as Soaring for Autism and Autism Family Day provided community engagement and access to resources for hundreds of people in the state. 


Autism Society of Indiana
10255 Commerce Dr Suite 164 | Carmel, Indiana 46032
800-609-8449 | info@inautism.org

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Autism Society of Indiana
10255 Commerce Dr Suite 164 | Carmel, Indiana 46032
800-609-8449 | info@inautism.org

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