Tis the season to be anxious…FA-LA-LA-LA-LA, LA-LA-LA-LA.
Winter break, Christmas, New Year’s, decorations, a tree in the house, rearranged furniture, holiday parties, fancy clothes, school programs, church programs, family gatherings, unsolicited hugs, incessant questions, holiday music, Santa Claus, presents, family pictures, disrupted schedules, unfamiliar food, eggnog, candles, and a plethora of people — SO.MANY.PEOPLE.
December is a much-anticipated month that brings good tidings and joy to most people. But December is notorious for bringing out the Grinch in kiddos with sensory over-responsivity. Disrupted routines and increased social demands often lead to a merry month of meltdowns. So, what can parents do to support a child who struggles during the most wonderful time of the year?
As a parent of a child with autism, apraxia, and sensory processing disorder, I assure you there are steps we can take to make the holiday season a little more blessed and a little less stressed. It is important for parents to anticipate that the chaos of the holidays will be stressful. Your sensory child needs you to advocate for his or her well-being, so make a plan and stick to it!
1. Prepare your child for upcoming events during this hectic month.
2. Keep some of your child’s routines in tact.
3. Have an escape plan in place.
4. Identify potential triggers and stressors before attending a holiday gathering.
5. Be honest with your family and friends about your child’s sensory needs.
He doesn’t like to be hugged, but he may give you a high-five
She won’t sit at the table with the rest of us, but she might eat later
He would probably like to help pass out the gifts
We may not be able to stay very long, but we’ll at least make an appearance
She is bothered by loud music, so we may have to step out during the sing-along
Here's the bottom line: This time of year is supposed to be jolly and fun. So try not to worry about what other people will think. Instead, focus on creating positive holiday experiences and memories for your entire family. Preparation is the key to success!
More Preparation = Fewer Meltdowns = Peace on Earth
What therapists and educators need to know about early child development
Cari Ebert, MS, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist who specializes in apraxia, autism and early intervention.