Merry Christmas, Happy New Year … Welcome to the holiday season!
When you have a child with special needs, many days go by and you don’t necessarily think about your child’s special needs in any extra fashion. Meaning you go about your life with its therapies, struggles and successes. Not really thinking, just doing.
But then there are times that the awareness of your child’s special needs will not only surface but take forefront in your mind. One of these times is the holiday season, as it is full of unique situations and stresses. Typically every one is a bit more stressed and we would all have to agree that even though the holidays are more than beautiful, how many times a day do you hear a stressed voice? Or see a frantic person? Or even, experience the joy of some holiday road rage over the last parking space? So it would figure that our special children feel the stress and changes too!
So many families with typically developing children will go to parties where it is loud, bright and crowded. Or to the movies, where it is loud and dark. Or to a family function with lots of hugs and talking. And we will think … Can we? Should we?
Others will go sled riding and we think: will she do it? Should we try it?
Even the choice of gifts can create such an awareness of the special needs of your child. Each toy, even if age appropriate, needs to be thought through.
Will she try this? Touch this at all? Is it too loud? Too complicated?
These are just the few examples that popped into my head as I write this blog, there really are countless more. Some make your heart hurt, some make you want to cry and others make you proud when you realize just how far your child has come since last year.
Oh yes, the holidays are full of awareness!
So here’s some advice:
Over the years, with some greatly successful and some really tough holiday seasons behind us, I have made up a mental list of how to approach this time of year.
Remember your child is indeed that, a child, who needs the support of family and friends. So speak for them if they cannot.
- Let those having the party know your child’s needs and how they “work”
- Let family know what they can do and what to do if a meltdown occurs
- Let friends know how they can help with your other children if needed
Remember it is never wrong to advocate for your child!
Remember that even the little successes can be celebrated:
- If your child gets her picture taken this year but did not last year … Celebrate it!
- If they could write their Santa letter this year … Celebrate it!
- If they tolerated a loud party … Celebrate it!
Early on in Elizabeth’s life, I made the mistake of trying to pretend that all was well with Elizabeth. Meaning denial overtook clear thinking. But I will tell you that being honest with others and asking for help will be a huge relief.
Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia do not quit, they are part of our daughter forever. I used to look at Elizabeth and think: “What can I do to fix this?” But you know what? She does not need to be fixed because she is not broken. Special needs children are not broken. But they do need special things.
What all special needs children need is:
- to be understood
- to be treated like a typically developing children and be offered the same chance at life’s experiences
- to have needed supports in place
- to be encouraged.
These hold true in everyday life and even more so during these busy holiday times. So don’t be afraid to:
- ask for a special consideration for your child
- stay for a bit of the party and leave if needed
- decline an invitation you know will be too much for them
- explain why you cannot do two parties or events in one day
We want our children to have the chance to enjoy this magical time and just like they are special in their needs in life, they will need some special considerations during the holiday time.
Once you understand how your child “works”, you will be able to help them enjoy the season, the magic and the love of this busy time of year.
Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.