Here Comes the Holidays!
Tables Groaning with Savory and Decadent Dishes!
Twinkling Lights and Candy Canes!
Sounds like fun? Not necessarily, especially if you have a child with special needs. We have children with specific dietary needs, surrounding sensory integration needs, mobility limits and in some cases extreme anxiety over any change in normal routine. How do we make the holidays special and still maintain ours and our children’s equilibrium?
First, focus on your child’s strengths. What does she like to do and how can that be used as a natural progression into celebrating the holiday. Choose activities that are going to be successful for your child. Only do the activity for as long as your child responds positively.
Emphasize what is important to your family. Pick and choose the events that make the holiday special for you and your child. Limit the time spent doing special things. Driving around looking at lights was something we did every year with my older children. We had hot chocolate and candy canes and drove about an hour and a half. When my youngest daughter came into our lives with her special needs we cut the time to half an hour and exchanged the hot chocolate and candy canes for string cheese and crackers. Simple is much better if it prevents the dreaded meltdown.
Be realistic. What can your child reasonably tolerate in the way of a family get together? One solution may be to come later for the main festivities. In most families there is a lot of preparation before whatever the main event is. If you come later your child will not be over done before the party even starts.
Plan ahead for when the mood of the party becomes too intense for your child. Decide ahead of time what your plan for timeout might be. You might suggest a short walk, if weather permits, or a quiet place with a favorite DVD or book. You can prearrange this with your host so that your child knows there is a safe place for her to go and rest or relax. If your child has any dietary restrictions bring her own treat so she feels special. Your child might want to bring a special treat for everyone that she can eat too. Oftentimes the other children would like to try the different foods and it can make your child feel special.
Most importantly enjoy the festivities and take care of yourself and your child. Make opportunities to relax among all the festivities and have a wonderful holiday.