As a parent, you’re probably wondering how to help your child with special needs through the stress of the holidays. Let’s face it, holidays can be quite challenging. It’s a time for gathering with friends and family, socializing, trying new foods and being in an unusually loud or sometimes chaotic environment.
And I’m sure none of that appeals at all to your child.
So we asked around in our special needs community of moms, mainly in our Facebook group (interested? You can join here!) what they struggled with around the holidays.
We came up with these tips of ways you can help your child with special needs through the holidays, hopefully with minimal issues.
Don’t Over Commit
You don’t want to put too many new or different experiences on your child’s plate all at once. Maybe see if your extended family is willing to come to your house more often, so your child can be in their own familiar environment.
Involve Your Family
By letting your entire family know in advance what your child’s needs are, they’ll be aware of what your child can handle. This will avoid unrealistic expectations that might otherwise make things difficult for both you and your child.
Consider Possible Accessibility Issues
Make sure you’re aware of any possible issues when you visit another house, especially if your child is in a wheelchair. Is there room to maneuver inside, accessibility in the front door? All things to consider.
Avoid a Sensory Meltdown
You know better than anyone your child’s sensory issues: Do they have issue with large crowds, loud music, dark rooms?
By showing up early, you can make sure your child gets acclimated to the new environment. Consider bringing along headphones to drown out too much noise, or find a quiet corner or room you can retreat to if things get too overwhelming.
If your child is on oxygen, make sure there are no candles burning or a fire in the hearth.
Don’t Forget the Food
You might have to bring your own food if your child has food allergies, intolerance, sensitivities, or a sensory processing disorder. Even if you have let the hosts know about your child and their diet, honestly sometimes it’s just easier to bring your own. But if your host is willing to cater to your child’s needs, that’s wonderful.
If your child is on a feeding tube, make sure guests are familiar with their medical needs so you’ll both feel more at ease. Having a private space to feed might also make your child more comfortable.
Try to Stick With a Routine
Holidays are usually a difficult time to stick to a routine, but try to do it whenever possible. You could have your child do some light schoolwork or chores around the house to help them stay on track.
Also, if it’s possible (depending on the location of your holiday visit) consider keeping a day half-routine and half-holiday, maybe giving your child the morning and early afternoon of their regular routine, then visiting family and friends in the late afternoon and evening hours.
Take a Break
If you’re traveling, be sure to allow time for potty breaks and sensory breaks.
Allow Enough Time
Being rushed out the door to an event is stressful for everyone, but especially for your child who is venturing out of their normal routine anyway. Always plan on delays and problems, because let’s face it, there will be plenty. Allowing extra time for everything from getting ready to the actual trip itself can take the stress of being late to an event out of an already complex situation.
Make sure to bring familiar toys or items for your child. This can help them feel safe if they’re feeling anxious, and also give them something of their own to do when others are doing things that don’t interest them.
We hope these tips will allow you to help your special needs child through the holidays. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments!