Like many special needs children, N thrives on routine. Unfortunately, the holiday break from school really throws a monkey wrench into his schedule. When you combine that with the excitement of Christmas, the sensory overload caused by the old weather, and the overstimulation of parties/family gatherings, it can be hard on a child with sensory issues. Here are a few tips on how to create a sensory friendly holiday season.
Try to stick to their normal routine as much as possible:
We still get up at the same time when school is out and keep the same bedtime. I tried to let him stay up a bit later to watch the little Christmas specials, but it just left him cranky the next day. Since we flexischool (part time public school and part time homeschool), he still does his lessons in the morning and we do some kind of fun activity in the afternoon.
Stay busy while also teaching the joy of giving:
I’m super cheap, but there are tons of DIY tutorials that won’t break the bank. N really loves to bake so usually we make cookies or candy for the neighborhood and others that we just wanted to thank, like the mailman and UPS guy. It’s a fun way to pass the time, but he also feels a sense of accomplishment by making his own gifts.
Have plenty of fidget toys at the ready:
I try to encourage him to participate in whatever outing we are invited to (such as caroling) but we go prepared. We leave if he gets too nervous, but sometimes just having something to squeeze is enough comfort for him to continue. There are a million different types of fidgets, but he is really into squishy toys and sensory putty right now. We are going to make some for his little friends at school so I plan on sharing the recipes in the next few days.
Be cautious about hosting a party at your home:
N gets a bit nervous at other people’s houses so it seemed like a no brainer to just have it at our house. HUGE MISTAKE . Home is kind of our safe haven where he can decompress and do what he wants (within reason). It made him very uncomfortable to have strangers in his home touching his stuff. What’s worse is that we couldn’t escape. At least when he was upset at someone’s house, we could just leave if it became too much.
Don’t feel pressured to buy the latest, greatest toy of the season:
Like many autistic children, N has eccentric tastes. I can probably count on one hand how many actual toys that he plays with. Usually he prefers to make stuff out of cardboard, newspaper, old containers, etc. He is constantly digging through the recycling bin for craft materials. He loves making board games with weird themes like “Help Batman finish his oatmeal” or “Underwater unicorn checkers”. As goofy as it sounds, I usually end up buying a toy that I think he might enjoy (this year is a 3d printing pen) and just get him a bunch of craft supplies to go with it. Other parents might raise an eyebrow at glitter and chenille stems under the tree, but it is about my wonderfully weird child, not them. I also wanted to add that if you can’t afford to spend a lot of money, then don’t. Of course, everyone wants to give their kids the world, but the best thing you can give your child is a happy and stable home. Crippling debt is not the best way to achieve it.
Spread the love:
If you can, try to help out someone in need. A lot of people donate to charities that help less fortunate children, which is a very worthy cause. However, most of these organizations don’t serve a very important group— mentally disabled adults. Many of them live in poverty so their family may struggle with giving them gifts. This is particularly sad for those who still believe in Santa Claus. Dropping off a few things to an adult daycare can really make their day. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could ask your friends or church family to “adopt” a few people each so no one gets left out.