1. Prepare your children for the changes in their routines
Routine and structure are important to children with special needs. During the holiday season, there are major changes to your children’s daily routines. Preparing them for these changes reduces their stress and anxiety.
Talk with your children about what to expect during the holiday season. Show them on a calendar when their routine changes. For example, if they are in school show how many days are left before their holiday break. Consider drafting a plan for each day so your children know what to expect.
2. Tell your hosts about your children’s differences
If you plan to visits friends and family during the holidays, tell them about your children before your visit. Let them know:
- Your children’s likes and dislikes.
- Whether your children mind being hugged or touched.
- Subjects your children enjoy talking about.
- What not to say to your children.
- Anything else you think is important.
Ability Path’s Holiday Survival Guide includes a sample letter to hosts on page 14.
3. Tell your children about your hosts or guests
Whether you are hosting people or visiting others, reduce your children’s anxieties by telling them about the people they will see by:
- Showing them photos of your guests or hosts.
- Describing the places you will visit and showing where they are on a map.
- Sharing information about each person.
If visiting others, tell your children what to expect when you arrive. If you do not know, talk to your hosts beforehand.
4. Arrange a quiet place for your children
Before you visit friends and families, ask them to arrange a room or other space where your children can go if they feel overwhelmed. When you arrive at your host’s home, show your children where they can go to relax.
If you are having visitors, make a do not disturb sign that your children put on their bedroom doors. Remind your guests about your children’s quiet rooms.
5. Keep your children involved in your holiday preparations
Make sure your children are part of your family’s preparations. Give your children tasks suited to their abilities. Your children might be able to help with:
- Setting the table
- Wrapping presents
Preparing your children with special needs for the holidays should make them more enjoyable for the whole family.