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Making Thanksgiving a More Inclusive Holiday

Thanksgiving is usually a time for families to get together, eat delicious food, and reflect on the year. However, it can also be overstimulating to those who are neurodiverse. Here are some pointers on making a more inclusive holiday.

Set Expectations Through Storytelling

Setting expectations for your child by telling them a story about the holiday is a great way to make Thanksgiving more comfortable. It’s a fun way to describe the characters, food, and activities that are going to be present at the event. If you’re attending dinner at a different location, ask the host if they plan to engage in any activities so you can let your child know ahead of time. If you need to, run a trial run of the day with your kiddo.

Know When It’s Time To Negotiate

Depending on your child, you can negotiate certain behaviors. For example: letting your child have their toy at the dinner table but putting it away when a family activity starts. Also, be sure to pack a comfortable outfit for potentially uncomfortable situations. Sometimes changing into comfortable clothing goes a long way.

Designate A Quiet Space

Ask the host to designate a space within their home for your child to unwind. Many neurodivergent children like having a space to explore and decompress from the extra stimulation a crowded house can bring.

Provide Different Food Options

Certain smells and flavors can be overwhelming for your kiddo. If that is the case, be sure to pack an extra meal (and some snacks) that your child will enjoy.


Typically during the holidays, other children may be present who may not understand how to relate and communicate with their neurodiverse relatives.

Set Expectations With Family Members

Talking to a neurotypical child about their neurodiverse relative can help set boundaries and expectations. If they have any questions, be sure to answer them as best as you can, and don’t be afraid to let them know you are open to any further conversation.

Help Them Through Conflicts

Sometimes children play together and disagreements can arise. Children who are neurodiverse may have a hard time understanding and communicating with neurotypical children. Be sure to support and guide them to an agreement.

Seek Out Similarities

Neurodiverse children can feel left out of family gatherings, so be sure to emphasize similarities. Emphasizing these similarities can make a neurodiverse child feel closer to their neurotypical relatives. Food, hobbies, and favorite games are good places to start.


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