Holiday Tips and Strategies from ConnectWC

The following words of wisdom are from members of ConnectWC who have adolescent and young adult children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They have developed strategies over the years to help make the holidays go more smoothly for their families. We hope some of these ideas will be useful to you and your family as we head into the upcoming holiday season.


  • We keep an ongoing list of gift ideas for our child so we don't get caught off guard when family or friends ask for ideas. We use it as a resource for birthday ideas, too. It's also a great place to keep track of gifts your child has received in the past, what they enjoyed, and tips for the following year.

  • With two children, and one with special needs, we found it best to keep things simple and remember that we don't have to accept every invitation that comes along.Need a gift idea?  Check out the gift guides for kids and teens with special needs at the bottom of the page!

  • Delegate! We ask our child's PCA to assist him in wrapping gifts for the family (except theirs!)

  • When our son was younger, it worked best to keep him in his familiar environment, so we invited guests to our home. We asked them to pitch in with food and hosting responsibilities on the day of the gathering.

  • My daughter gets overstimulated easily in new places with many people, so attending holiday parties can be a real challenge. Our solution: arrive late and leave early! We still make an appearance and get to see family and friends, but the shorter time helps my daughter (and us) stay calmer and enjoy ourselves more.

  • When family asks how they can help to make the event more comfortable for our daughter, we don't hesitate to ask for help. This could mean asking for accommodations with food, time or whatever makes sense for your family.

    • When our son was younger, his sensory system could get overstimulated quickly.  Taking a car ride gave us a much-needed break from the activities for both of us!

    • We keep a large calendar (think desk-top style) on the side of our refrigerator for everyone to see. I write down details about upcoming events and try to include times. It helps my kids prepare for what is coming and gives them an idea of how long things may last.

    • Our son can find a small hole or broken thread in his clothing and quickly make larger holes and tears. As a result, we go through a number of clothing items through the year. Practical items such as clothing and bedding are always appreciated.

    • We make sure to have a set dinner time each evening. Keeping this routine helps us stay connected during this busy time.

    • When things get hectic, it helps our daughter to escape to a quiet space to calm down. Family members can then visit her one or two at a time. This helps my daughter's anxiety level stay low and also allows more personal one-to-one time with family.

    • We have developed a support network of family and friends that get together with our son throughout the year. Now at events they can help keep an eye on him, allowing us to relax and be more engaged with the holiday activities.

    Picking out the right gift can be a challenge, especially if the child or teen has a disability.  Here are some resources to offer ideas and inspiration.  Share with family and friends:

    • Creative Kidstuff - working in partnership with St. David's Center for Child & Family Development, staff have received training to assist customers in finding just the right gift!