You may not be riding over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house in a horse-drawn sleigh this season, but chances are, you’ll be visiting family at some point. And you’re probably wondering how your child with autism is going to handle it all.

Even when relatives offer positive contributions such as hugs, presents, and attention, the holiday experience can get a little overwhelming for a child on the spectrum.

Here’s the good news: you can take steps to prepare for positive family interactions right now, starting with this list of free printable social stories.

As a reminder, social stories are brief, illustrated accounts that help children with autism to understand and interpret common social situations. They represent an easy, low-cost ways to provide positive behavioral support for your child.

Plus, they can improve your family’s quality of life in the holiday season and beyond. For example, a social story on hand-washing can help reinforce healthy behavior and prevent the spread of germs all year round.

As such, our FirstPath Autism team compiled of free printable social stories for you. Common themes include greetings, dining etiquette, traveling, interacting with family, and celebrating traditions. It’s our hope that these tools will empower you to enjoy the season with those you love!


The Monarch Center for Autism has an extensive Visual Supports page with a Holiday Travel Section, which includes a Family Vacation Visual Schedule (PDF) and an Airplane Ride Activity Story among others.


Getting Dressed:

Project Autism offers a nicely-illustrated Getting Dressed for Wintersocial story, perfect for children who resist donning long sleeves and jackets when the temperature drops!

Sped-Ventures is a blog by certified special education teacher Kara Heslinga. She created two free, gender-specific social stories to help children to choose winter clothing. There is one story for boys and one for girls. (Note that the stories are meant for upper elementary and middle-school-aged children.)

As Heslinga notes:

“These stories are for those students … who need a more scripted/list-style instruction to be able to select appropriate clothing. These students will often complain about being too cold, even if they have chosen their own clothing …. I made the text in these stories simple and repetitive: …. ‘If I wear ____________ in the winter, I will stay warm and comfortable.’”

The Monarch Center for Autism‘s Winter Fun section includes an “I Want to Play, But it is Cold Outside” Activity Story, a Non-Identical Winter Items Matching Board, and a Getting Dressed in Winter Checklist too.

Attending Parties & Getting Presents:

Positively Autism is a treasure trove of free social stories tailor-made for various holidays. There’s the customizable My Family’s Thanksgivingsocial story for November, and the “Visiting Family at Christmas” story for December.

The latter “targets the skills of: visiting family (or having them come to visit), saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ things visitors may do, such as hugging the child, and things families might do together, such as have dinner.” It’s available in PDF and Microsoft PowerPoint for easy editing.

They also offer a specific “Getting Presents” story, as well as a “Going To Visit Santa” story in case going to the mall and taking a photo with Santa is an annual tradition in your family.


General Holiday Resources:

Check out Postively Autism’s Social Skills Social Stories library, which includes downloadables such as “Saying Hello to People” and “Eye Contact When Greeting.” These are helpful anytime, but particularly for holiday-season social gatherings.

Ability Path offers a free Holiday Survival Guide for Parents with Special Needs Children. The PDF guide includes an outline of how to make Hanukkah traditions accessible, a Going to Visit Santa social story, holiday decoration tips, sample holiday visit letters informing relatives of your child’s needs, and more.

One Place For Autism has a wide-ranging document and video library; check out their Holiday Social Stories category for relevant listings.

Autism Speaks has an extensive Autism and the Holidays resource list, which features travel tips, toy recommendations, and a downloadable Thanksgiving Social Story.