While the words "stress-free" and "the holidays" don't often go together, we at Brain Balance want all kids to enjoy this special time of year. No matter which holidays your family celebrates, the following tips and strategies can help everyone enjoy the season... especially those with special needs like ADHD and autism. Read and share our article, and enjoy this wonderful time of year!
Prepare a Schedule of Events
Give your child a schedule of events for special activities, particularly on days with lots of transitions. Whether it’s a written schedule or one with pictures for younger kids, your child will feel calmer and safer knowing what is coming up. Discuss the schedule regularly and provide info for each event. For example, let your child know which events will take place outside and which will be loud or crowded. Sometimes just knowing what’s next can help children with special needs feel less anxiety.
Take a Break
Have a code word your child can use if he or she feels overwhelmed and needs a break. Assure your child if he or she uses the code word, you will respond right away. Again, giving children some control during activities that may be overstimulating for them will reduce anxiety.
Set Expectations Before Every Event
Before you leave for holiday parties, parades, or other fun events, have a quick family meeting so your whole family knows how long you plan to stay and how you expect them to behave. This will benefit neuro-typical children as well, since any child can get overwhelmed with the excitement of the holidays. Continue to make your child's sleep schedule a priority, even in the midst of so many special events.
Be Prepared with Regulatory Tools
Children with significant sensory sensitives may require a little extra planning to enjoy holiday festivities. For example, you may need to bring along ear plugs if you will be in a noisy environment or sensory fidgets if the child is expected to sit still. For sensitive kids who need to wear dress clothes for events, bring along some soft clothes for them to change into as soon as possible. Be prepared by knowing your child's specific limitations and how you will handle them if the need arises. Don't wait for the meltdown to begin.
Stay on Track
If your children have food sensitives or allergies that prevent them from eating holiday treats, plan ahead to offer alternatives like all-natural candy or a gluten-free treat from home. Children with neuro-behavioral disorders like ADHD or autism often already feel different, so be sure to include them in as many holiday festivities as possible.
Keep Holiday Decor Simple
If your child is easily over-stimulated, limit holiday decorations in your home. Too many twinkling lights combined with smells from the kitchen and other holidays distractions, while enjoyable to most, can be too much for children with autism, ADHD, or sensory disorders. Let special needs children help you decorate for the holidays so they are involved in the changes that take place in their comforting environment.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year for your special needs child! We hope these tips help your whole family enjoy this fun time of year.