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The *ND Rough Guide to Thriving During the Holiday season

*A Neurodivergent lens

Due to Covid-19 there maybe even more pressure to enjoy the festive season this year and the social expectations attached to it, not only for people in the mainstream, but for neurodivergents too.

In a previous blog in InSPIre the Mind, I had already discussed the challenges of the lockdown experience from a neurodivergent perspective. As Disability History Month officially draws to a close and the festive season begins, the final milestone of the year bombards the senses of those without sensory challenges, if you enjoy it excellent, however for some who are sensitive to this, they may experience sensory overloads.

The needs and personalities of those within the wider Neurodivergent family vary, this is just one perspective on the holiday season.

It’s important to remember that plurality is key. Neurodivergents are more than our social and sensory differences, more than fractals, we consist of layers with differing thresholds for a variety of things.

This year’s collective focus seems more in step with a differentiated approach to celebrating the holidays, perhaps nearing the end of an unprecedented and challenging 2020, we can embrace the complexities together.

Street singage and bauble. Image: Natasha Trotman 2020

With the required modifications for celebrating the first holiday season due to COVID-19, the national office of statistics has said that half of the adults who have taken the recent survey would adapt celebrations and form bubbles. As everyone wants to celebrate safely, there is just enough willingness for adaptations to change celebrations during the holidays to facilitate and accommodate differing needs with less resistance and social penalties. For some, the most recent announcement from the UK Government may have changed this.

We have covered the terrain that makes this possible but what are the metrics for thriving as a neurodivergent during the holidays?

Spoon conserving activities and engagements are part of these ‘Thriving in the Holiday Season 2020’ metrics; Spoon Theory, created by Christine Miserandino, is used by people living with chronic illness and the autistic community. It describes energy in the form of a tangible object(s) “spoons”, each spoon represents one unit of energy, there are 10 units for an individual to use per day. What exactly saves spoons?

Planning and routines:

Structure helps with the framing and managing of expectations. No hugs required:

Adapted communication/social engagement and for those who enjoy deep pressure, weighted blankets may help. Picking an intergenerational mode that suits everyone best is good as this helps put more structure into the interactions, methods, timings and expectations. Gifts/no Gift exchanges:

This can be managed so giving of presents can be factored in or out of your celebrations, staggering interactions thereby limiting the spoons used to convey your reactions to the gift.


Social distance is key, although there are temporary support bubbles allowed, some are still shielding so alternate ways to connect with loved ones is vital, there are also other aspects such as mask wearing, do we, don’t we? Some may feel that this helps to manage the situation and attached social anxieties.

Managing expectations:

There is less pressure for the onsite physical and social performances and interactions, this leaves enough time for a choice to be made as to where, when and how interaction takes place. Meaning, the interactions are delivered in short bursts but retain the meaningful elements.

Final Thoughts

This is not the end of celebrating the festive season but a new way of observing it, which factors everyone in, resulting in adaptations and staggering interactions as well as using multiple mediums in order to facilitate interactions which may aid spoon preservation.


Header image Street, billboard and bauble. Image by Natasha Trotman, 2020


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