Making the Holidays Less Stressful


Many children with disabilities such as Autism and other related sensory processing disorders, experience holidays differently. They can be overstimulated with large numbers of people, overwhelmed with decorations and commotion, and experience fight or flight moments. Children are often on gluten and casein free diets, or have other food allergies, and cannot eat common foods experienced on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. These things can create many challenges for families.

Sensory issues affect one out of five children in the United States today. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah often bring large groups of families together. Children can experience fears that they themselves don’t understand. There are things you can do to help your child and others with sensory issues for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah:

  • Practice opening gifts and saying thank you
  • Let kids know it is okay to feel nervous and scared
  • Create a photo album of family members the kids will be seeing during the holiday
  • Use a calendar to reference how long until the holiday arrives
  • Create a visual schedule for the holiday’s events
  • Create a visual story and read it through in the weeks leading up to the holiday
  • Know your child’s limits and when they are becoming stressed out and overwhelmed
  • Use noise cancelling headphones and bring a flashlight to evening events
  • If traveling, make a busy bag of activities

The holidays can be fun for everyone. It is up to you and the child on how to best meet their needs. Follow your child’s lead, read their cues.

MOSI is holding a sensory friendly event on

Saturday, December 7th,

From 8am to 10am with holiday crafts and hands on fun. Join MOSI as we offer a special event for families and children with sensory differences to get into the Holiday spirit throughout the Museum. MOSI will set up in a low stress environment of lights and sounds.

Don’t miss the Day of Discovery events for Autism Awareness Month in April 2020!

April 4th, 8-10am:

Experience MOSI as we offer our venue to those families with sensory differences and other disabilities with unique enrichment craft projects, building activities and lights and sounds to provide a calm environment. Your admission ticket enables you to stay for all guests’ MOSI operating hours, starting at 10am. CARD provided Distract-Packs are available at Guest Services. This event is FREE for MOSI Members. Non-Members are only $5 if purchased before event date and $8 on day of event. Parking is FREE.

April 11th, 8-9:30am:

Experience The Florida Aquarium, offering unique programming, animal encounters and animal enrichment craft projects, with lights and sounds adapted for individuals with sensory differences and their families. Your admission ticket enables you to stay for regular Aquarium operating hours, starting at 9:30am. Headphones are available at Guest Services. FREE for Aquarium Members. Non-Members are only $5 if purchased before event date and $8 on day of event. Parking is $6 per car in Aquarium parking lot.

April 27th, 8-9:30am:

ZooTampa at Lowry Park welcomes individuals with autism, their families, and others who may benefit from a sensory-friendly experience. Download social stories and parent tips prior to the event on ZooTampa at Lowry Park or CARD website. Lights and sounds are adapted for individuals with sensory differences and their families. Sensory Day of Discovery ends at 9:30am and the Zoo opens for normal business hours, participants are welcome to continue exploring.

To find out more about MOSI and their inclusion efforts, go to or call 813-987-6000.

See more in our Bright Feats Directory Listing