The holiday season is upon us, and this presents special challenges for parents of children with special needs.
Holiday gatherings mean crowds, noise, new foods, new experiences and changes in routine. Many children with special needs do not handle these changes very well. Here are some tips to get you and your child through the holidays.
- Make an escape plan. This is one of the best and easiest ways to help your child cope. Map out a quiet retreat where you can take your child when they begin to get overwhelmed. It’s better to leave early than wait for things to go bad. This can be an outside location, or an empty bedroom, or even a quiet closet. Make sure the spot is easy to get to, quiet, away from the crowd, inviting and comforting to your child. They may want to retreat to this spot frequently throughout a holiday gathering.
- Adjust the menu. Whether you’re preparing the meal or bringing a dish to the party, make sure there’s something your child is familiar with and will eat. The goal is to make your child comfortable and to reduce your child’s stress level.
- Pack familiar items. Pack a bag of favorite toys and activities as well as favorite sippy cup, plate, blanket and other comfort items for your child. A bag of familiar favorites is a source of comfort for your child.
- Choose clothing that’s comfortable. Stay away from clothes that you know will make your child uneasy or give them anxiety. If your child doesn’t like tags or insists on wearing a certain fabric then ensure their outfit is one they’ll be comfortable wearing.
Some additional ideas to make the day a little easier on your child:
- Talk about the day before it arrives. Social stories, books and movies are a great way to prepare your child for what to expect on the big day.
- Make sure your child knows what to expect. The trick is to avoid any surprises. Let your child know what will be happening, who will be there, what you’ll be eating and what is expected of them. Give your child lots of warning before any loud noises such as singing or clapping.
- Help family members and guests make the day less traumatic. Let them know If your child doesn’t like being touched, is frightened of loud noises or is intimidated by crowds.
- Make it fun! Praise your child for their accomplishments and enjoy the day!
The holidays don’t have to be a time of dread for you or for your child with special needs. With some simple planning you and your child can ease stress and enjoy the party.