GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The holiday season means gatherings with friends and family, but for young kids with autism, the holidays can be a major obstacle.

“Changes in routine can be really, really challenging for individuals with autism (and) there are so many things that are different about the holidays. Different sights, sounds, smells, decorations all over the houses…” Dr. Candee Lake, Wedgwood Christian Services, said.

As families and friends gather to celebrate, this can create a challenge for those with autism due to the new and unfamiliar foods. Lake said it’s a good idea to prepare your child for what they will experience.

“If your child has difficulty eating new foods, that might be something that you can practice ahead of time,” she explained. “Don’t cook a whole turkey or something, but maybe you do a little roast turkey breast in your crockpot and you practice with that and introducing those foods.”

She added that you can always bring something familiar along.

For those hosting, Lake recommends asking the parent what’s going to make the child feel more comfortable.

“One thing is offering different food and things like that, that they may be familiar with. Another is having a space where they can go if it gets a little too overwhelming… if there’s a place that they know they can go, that can be really, really helpful and go a long way to helping with overstimulation,” she said.