It’s holiday time and no matter which holidays your family celebrates, the following guidelines and may help you and your family enjoy the season with less stress. Children with special needs like ADHD and autism pick up on those stressful energies, so try to plan ahead as best you can!
Special events should be scheduled and planned ahead, particularly on days with lots of transitions or when routines need to be changed. Try written schedule or a colorful calendar, this way your child may feel calmer knowing what is coming up. Talk about the events coming up regularly and provide info for each event. Let them know which events will take place outside and which may be loud or crowded. Their anxieties may decrease just knowing what’s next.
Taking breaks can be helpful when situations are overwhelming. Set up code words or gestures that your child can use if he or she feels it’s too much to handle. Assure them that you will respond quickly and break away from the overstimulating situation.
Know before you go…… have a quick family meeting so everyone knows how long you plan to stay at an event or party and how you expect them to behave. This helps neuro-typical children as well, since any child can get overwhelmed with the excitement of the holidays.
Be prepared by ahead of time by knowing your child’s specific limitations and how you will handle them before a potential meltdown. If your child has significant sensory sensitives you may need to have a plan before attending a party. If you think you will be in a noisy environment you may need to bring along ear plugs for your child or maybe small fidget toys to help soothe. And remember to make your child’s sleep schedule a priority, even in the midst of so many special events.
If your child has food sensitives or allergies that prevent them from eating holiday treats, plan ahead to offer fun and tasty alternatives from home. Decorations within your home may also be over stimulating. You know what your child can and cannot tolerate, so use lights and colors and other decorations within their tolerance level. Let your child help you decorate for the holidays so they are involved in the changes that take place in their comforting environment.
The holiday season can be a fun time for everyone including children with special needs; especially when there are strategies put in place to help ease potential stressors!