5 Holiday Survival Tips for Families with Special Needs

by ih-chi admin

There’s no question that the holidays are hectic. Social gatherings, decorating, gift shopping, food shopping, mailing packages, and the list goes on. Now add to the mix your special needs child who may or may not be thrilled with all the twinkling lights and seasonal sing-alongs, and you have a lot to navigate.

Here are a few tips to help you hold on to your sanity, and theirs, all month long:

  1. Prepare a Schedule. Letting your child know ahead of time where you are going, who will be there and how long an event will last can go a long way in easing anxiety. Show them pictures of what you’ll be doing or seeing, whether it’s a tree-lighting or holiday performance.  
  2. Decorate Simply. Be sensitive to your child who may be easily overstimulated by bright lights, sounds or colors. Ask them to offer ideas on what they’d like to see for decorations, and follow their lead. Let them have a small tree, bulletin board, or special wall or window space to decorate however they choose so that they feel in control of their surroundings. 
  3. Pack Distractions. If your child has significant sensory issues, make sure to bring along ear plugs to a concert or caroling. If it’s another type of performance or party where they will be expected to sit for a long time, have some fidgets (small toys) and electronics on hand to keep them occupied.
  4. Adapt Menus. Add some food items to your holiday menu that you know your picky eater will enjoy. Or let your child eat something they like before sitting down to the table with everyone else. And bring along your own snacks or food to celebrations.
  5. Give Yourself a Break. Parents get just as overwhelmed as kids during the holidays. Schedule time for a movie or meal out with friends, shop quietly by yourself in the evening when stores are less crowded, or simply grab a new book you’ve been wanting to read to unwind for few minutes each day. 

(Adapted from Brain Balance.)