Holidays and family events are a joy and a stress in many families for both parents and children. If you have a child with special needs, these celebrations can become challenging. In a previous blog I offered some tips to making the most of holidays. Whether Christmas or Easter, I hope you find them helpful as the weekend approaches.
Look at the holiday through your child’s eyes
What aspects of the holiday would your child enjoy? Many parents simply enjoy buying gifts for a child. However, too many gifts can be too stimulating for some children. I found that with Ryan, three gifts work for him. Focusing on what he finds interesting is most important.
Adapt an Advent Calendar
Ryan and I often do a countdown while focused on the religious aspect of Easter. I also prepare Ryan for visits with family and social outings by using social scripting. By creating a countdown and practicing expectations, Ryan is better prepared for the events.
Decorate Throughout the House
If your child is over stimulated by sensory experiences, you may wish to limit the amount of decorations in one room and/or gradually decorate your home. Decorations are fun, but they are a change, and with change, comes anxiety.
Keep it Simple
Limit your schedule. When Ryan was about three years old, I noticed that he was quickly bored when visiting other’s homes, causing various behavior challenges. At that point, I made visits shorter. We followed the same routine starting early around 4:30 p.m. and ending by 6:30 p.m. Talking to your family about your schedule and why you need to keep your visits short and structured will not only help you, but allows them to understand.
Two Cars are Better Than One
By driving two cars (if possible) you can allow the other family members to remain at a family function or outing and you can leave early. This will alleviate your feelings of guilt and sadness.
Keep an eye out for signs of anxiety. This could be the cause of an increase in your child’s repetitive behaviors. If you do see signs, know that your child’s anxiety is increasing and give your child a break.
Bring a Favored Activity
Whether it’s a toy, iPad or DVD player your child enjoys, take it with you on your visits. This can create a comfort zone for your child in the midst of the hustle and bustle of an event or outing.
Attending Worship Services
When Ryan was little, the church or crowds and unclear expectations seemed to trigger some behaviors. It was best for us to plan, sit with a friend and start a routine. Eighteen years later, we maintain the same program. Every week, Ryan and I attend church. We sit in the same row near the back of the church. And every week Aunt Jeanne saves us seats. Prepare your child – go early to get a seat, perhaps at the end of the row. Taking a supportive friend or family member will allow your other children to remain in case you need to leave early.
Relax and Laugh
Take time to dwell in the possibilities of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Acknowledge and celebrate when things are going well for yourself and for others. Gratitude strengthens hearts and minds. I hope that your Easter is full of encouragement and gratitude!