Report: A Successful Autistic Thanksgiving


Well, the Thanksgiving was a success. I almost had a meltdown over the anxiety while walking the dog, but that was over once I got the turkey in the oven. 

Of course, there was a period of relaxation while the turkey was roasting. The rest of the dishes were easy to prepare. Anyway, the dinner was a success. We ate, relaxed, ate again, and I broke down the turkey with ease. I hope to be more confident next year.

The schedule was easy. It was just my mother and me, but I would have liked the challenge of adhering to a set time. We just ate when we were done. It was cool. We got calls from people who truly cared about us. It was a lovely day. 

Well, I’m off to eat a third helping of turkey. See you later. 

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Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep

Please forgive me…I’ve been trying to process all the happenings in California, which is now Fire Country. I’ve been numb from all the climate change denial, the fake compassion, and inability to learn. (We all know who this is about.) Please, support legitimate causes surrounding California.  

Now that the California Public Servant Announcement is done, let’s get to…. 

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep 

If you have not been reading lately, just know that this year, as in years before, I am in charge of Thanksgiving cooking – with help in the timing department from Mom, of course. Fortunately, most of the dishes are baked in the last hour, so that makes things a little easier. I only have to cook mashed potatoes, bowtie noodles and gravy on the stove. Everything else is baked/roasted.  

I already have the turkey in the refrigerator, and have had it there for a few days, because we got a large one. Strangely enough, I have encountered a small mass of ice in the cavity every time I have cooked turkey before, no matter how long I have set it out – not up to a week before, though. Anyway, the turkey has always been a success, so there’s really little to worry about there. Just so you know, we do NOT stuff the turkey with stuffing prior to baking; we need room for our aromatics. Besides, we have a bunch of turkey stock and broth formulas on hand for our stuffing and other dishes. Of course, we roll out enough food to feed an army, or feed us for a weekend.  

Much of this stage of prep involves deciding how and in what to serve our dinner. A quick hack for this: Use sticky notes to label the dishes, so you’ll be ready when the food is ready to be served up. And don’t move the notes around! You could lose them.  

Why am I prattling on and on about Thanksgiving food prep? It helps me deal with the holiday, of course. It helps center my mind and body for the upcoming task. Besides, most people think that because of my autism, I would not be able to do Thanksgiving cooking. Well, boo on them. I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for years. I’m thankful for the ability to do it.  

Anyway, involving the autistic person in the process, and explaining it clearly to them every step of the way, is key to helping them deal with the holiday. Remember, think of things from their point of view: many of these Thanksgiving dinners involve strange foods, strange practices, and even people who are not normally there for a lot of the year. To an autistic person, this amount of upset can be overwhelming. Have empathy. (Funny I need to say “Have empathy” to people who think I can’t have empathy. Ironic? Maybe.) Explain this clearly and physically age-appropriately. They can understand more than you think.  

Also, a pro tip: Pull the turkey into the fridge TODAY, if you haven’t already. Even those small turkeys that weigh maybe four to six pounds some people are fond of need at least two days to thaw.

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps Part 1: Early Shopping

I’m no Thanksgiving expert, but I’d like to give an insight into how dealing with Thanksgiving works with our family.  

In our house, Thanksgiving prep begins early, at the beginning of November, or the end of October.  We clear out a space in the freezer for our turkey. We decide what we want on our menu, and get the non-perishable and freezable ingredients, like the turkey, corn and cranberry sauce. Much of our Thanksgiving is bought in this early time, and I myself set it aside. (I’m basically in charge of cooking now, which I can do well. No, the ability to cook a major meal does NOT negate my autism, thank you. Neural conditions do not work like that.)  

We then, over the coming weeks, buy fresh ingredients as the holiday gets closer. We have just today bought our rich half and half for the potatoes, and cream cheese for the celery. Hey, it’s my Thanksgiving. We’ll have it ready by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.  

Having a major hand in preparing the dinner helps me to anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. It consists of traditional dishes (like the celery for us), traditional eating all weekend, and traditional putting up of the Christmas décor.  

I think giving the autistic person responsibilities concerning the Thanksgiving holiday gets them into a mindset that everything will be okay. You may have to serve chicken nuggets just for them, along with having to wait until they’re older for them to eat like you, but usually the eating Thanksgiving meal comes. It may take a while. 

Of course, I learned to eat Thanksgiving food watching others eating. This might help some of us.

Thanksgiving Tips: How it All Went

Now, all in all, it was a good day. Unfortunately, it was only my mother and me around the table, but we had all our favorite things for Thanksgiving. It is usually a large spread, and this year is no different.  

We had a few setbacks, of course. My mother had the bright idea to put the bird in the oven at six a.m., and though the turkey turned out perfect, it was a bit cold when we ate. (Not too cold, though.) I got a very minor cut on my wrist from a can of water chestnuts, which we put in our dressing, but all in all there was no major setback. We had stupid fluffy rolls, which we like, perfect stuffing, great foods, and a good Thanksgiving altogether. I cooked, we ate, and then we napped. I got a designation of being a great cook. So, it was a great Thanksgiving. How did your Thanksgiving go?