Dec 6, 2023 | Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity and Celebrating the Holiday Season

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December has arrived, which means the hustle and bustle of the festive season is officially underway. Many emotions and challenges come to the surface during this time of year, especially for the neurodivergent community. It is important to ensure that, if you are hosting a party or gathering throughout the month, everyone feels welcome and included. Therefore, in today’s blog we want to offer some suggestions to help create a holiday celebration that is inclusive for everyone. 

Establish clear communication 

It is key for neurodivergent individuals to know what to expect when they are invited to an event. Communicate with the person about what the itinerary entails, what exactly is planned, expected activities, food options available, and what, if anything, will be required of them. This way, if there is something they don’t feel comfortable participating in, they can plan or express themselves beforehand, so they don’t feel embarrassed during the event.  

Accommodate to needs 

Going hand in hand with communication, speak to the person, or people, who may require certain accommodations during the event. This could include ensuring certain meal options are available, a quiet space where they can go to relax or recharge or plan activities where they feel safe and comfortable. Be cognizant of sensory triggers like bright light, loud noises, or strong smells. In doing so, you can adjust the environment to meet their needs. 

Allow flexibility in what people can wear. Some individuals might prefer to be told exactly what they should choose in terms of attire, whereas others may want the ability to choose what feels best and is most comfortable. For example, expecting formal attire may be too much for someone, and it could be the reason they choose not to attend. Therefore, keep an open mind when deciding on a venue. 

If possible, you may want to consider offering a virtual option for attendance as well. In some cases, neurodiverse individuals can find in person gatherings difficult. Offering this as an option gives people the opportunity to join the fun in a more comfortable and controlled environment. 

Provide clear instructions 

Don’t be vague in terms of what is required of the individual. For example, if the event is potluck, tell them what they can bring rather than a blanketed statement like “bring whatever!” Providing a list, where they can pick what they would like to bring, is an excellent option and will help keep the feeling of overwhelm to a minimum. If anything, else is needed, or expected of them, make those instructions clear prior to the occasion.  

Respect boundaries 

It is important to be respectful of the boundaries neurodivergent people set. This could mean coming to the event later than the rest, leaving earlier, or choosing not to participate in certain activities. With that being said, if the individual doesn’t feel comfortable attending, that choice should be honoured and they should not feel judged because of their choice. For some people, socializing and attending these events throughout the season is incredibly overwhelming and they may need to pick and choose a select few to protect their mental health. 

Every person is different, and everyone will have specific needs depending on their situation. By keeping these things in mind, you will create a space for everyone to enjoy, and celebrate the holiday season. 

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