7 expert tips for creating a happier holiday for children with autism

Holidays, like Christmas, are a special time of year for families. They can be special for you and your child with autism, too. It will take a little more planning and patience, but you can create happy holiday memories for your whole family. Applying proven techniques from the field of ABA therapy, the gold standard in autism care, is key.

Before we explore how ABA therapy can help, it’s important to understand how challenging holidays and any seasonal changes can be for children with autism. If your child has recently been diagnosed, you might not be aware that children with autism do best when they have routines to follow.

Any changes to their routines, any change to what they know, can be scary, because children with autism often have sensory and verbal communications deficits that make it difficult for them to quickly grasp and make sense of the unfamiliar. As a result, when their everyday routines are disrupted, as holidays tend to do, all the changes in their life (though temporary) can create a lot of anxiety and cause them to act out.

The tips below based in ABA therapy can help you reduce your child’s anxiety and create an environment where they can enjoy the holidays in their own wonderful way. Let’s take a look.


Tip #1 – Keep up your child’s daily routines as much as possible.

This echoes what we mentioned above, that children with autism find comfort in routines. Even if you’re traveling for the holidays, try your best to stick to your child’s routines at bedtime, in the mornings, at dinner, etc. It will provide your child with stability and predictability during the holiday hustle and bustle that, let’s face it, can create anxiety in all of us.


Tip #2 – Use visual supports to show your child what’s ahead.

Visual supports, like schedules and calendars, are ideal for showing children with autism what holiday plans lie ahead and when they will happen. If your child knows in advance what will happen and when, they won’t be surprised or caught off guard when their routines are disrupted. The more information you can share using pictures that represent the upcoming events the better. While holiday plans are not part of their routine, with visual supports, they become predictable, creating a sense of stability for children.


Tip #3 – Decorate in a sensitive way.

Children with autism can be affected by bright lights and loud noises, because of sensory deficits that are typical with the diagnosis. To help prepare them for the holiday fanfare inside and outside your home, try to acclimate them to the sensory experience. Start with smaller, controlled exposures to holiday-related sensations and gradually increase the intensity as your child becomes more comfortable. You may have to provide ear protection for them or eliminate some sensations altogether. When you know where that line of sensory comfort is for you child, you’ve got it made.


Tip #4 – Use social stories to help your child understand what behaviors are expected.

Social stories are personalized narratives that describe how to act and behave in a particular social situation. Many holiday events are social occasions either with extended family and friends. Others are out in public with crowds of people, like a parade or concert. The idea is to create social stories for your child, using pictures and words, that show them what they can expect during a specific social situation and how people act in that situation. Children with autism also often have social skill deficits and don’t know how to act in social situations. If you show them how through social stories, it will increase their understanding and reduce their anxiety. How to open and react to a gift makes a great social story for children with autism.


 Tip #5 – Find a safe place for your child to escape to if they need a break.

Holiday activities can be overwhelming for children with autism. When they’re at home, they have their bedrooms to go to and get away from it all for a little while. If you’re planning activities outside your home, think ahead about places you’re going and if there is a safe place where they can go to for some quiet time if they need it. This is important, because it could mean the difference between a content child and one who starts acting out because it’s all too much for them.


Tip #6 – Praise and reward positive behaviors.

 Positive reinforcement is critical for children with autism. It acknowledges their success in small and big things and rewards them for their efforts. Most importantly, it helps children repeat wanted behaviors. Positive reinforcement can be words of praise as well as tangible rewards, like their favorite cookie or a game on their laptop. Consistent positive reinforcement can contribute to increased engagement with your child and a more positive holiday experience for both your child and your family.


Tip #7 – Enroll your child in ABA therapy and sign up for Parent Training.

Experts in ABA therapy, like The Behavior Exchange, can help your child with autism improve in key developmental areas where they need help to reach their full potential. Helping children and their families successfully navigate the holidays is one of the many ways we bring hope and meaningful change into their lives. We’re also proud to have been the first ABA therapy provider in North Texas to have earned the highest accreditation possible as a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence®. We can help your child and family this holiday season and beyond.


To learn more about enrolling your child, reach out today. We also offer monthly Parent Training that brings tips like these to life, where you can talk and learn from licensed ABA therapists. Like ABA therapy, Parent Training is covered by most insurance!





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.