The holidays are upon us and typically that means increased activity in the home, travel, seeing friends & relatives you haven’t seen for months. New sights, sounds and smells.
It all adds up to one big issue: changes to your routine. Changing routines often produces anxiety in children with developmental disabilities.
Obviously we all want to avoid stressing our kids. To that end, this month’s “Thrive” newsletter is dedicated to holiday preparations. This article will talk about how to plan ahead and make the holidays fun for everyone.
Preparing for a Fun-For-Everyone Holiday: 7 Ideas
The following ideas come from a variety of sources: healthcare studies, ABA techniques, industry research, and our own therapists’ experiences. You can use any of them, or all of them.
Rehearse with your child what to do during holiday events. Go over what they should expect when traveling to visit family, when decorating the tree, or when opening presents. This way they have an idea of the event already, and will feel calmer when it happens.
If you are going to visit family or friends, make sure there is a quiet, calm place for retreat. Bring your child to some rooms in the house. They’ll indicate in which one they feel comfortable.
Make a “Holiday Book”. Here’s a fun idea, courtesy of Autism Speaks News:
“Take pictures when you and your child trim the tree, visit relatives, open gifts, etc. Make a book about your holiday by gluing the pictures onto construction paper, writing a short sentence under each picture, and stapling the pages together. When someone asks your child a question regarding the holidays, your child can use the book as a visual cue to help tell about the things he or she did.”
Decorate Gradually. If your child has trouble with change, try decorating the house gradually. For instance, put up a Christmas tree one day, but wait until the next day to decorate it. Have them participate too. It gives them time to adjust, and they get to help out.
More Holiday Preparation Ideas
When traveling, call the airline ahead of time & inform them your child has special needs. Most airlines will gladly work with you to keep your child calm and happy during the trip. If your child has any special dietary needs, make sure the airline knows in advance.
Observe your child’s behavior during holiday gatherings. They may react differently than normal when they feel tired or stressed. If they display unusual behavior (for example—throwing objects or trying to hide), bring them to a retreat location for a few minutes.
Make sure everyone’s needs are met. Holidays are family times; the whole family will have things they want to do. Remind your other children about their brother/sister’s special needs…but ask them what they want too.
If traveling or visiting family, create a timetable for each day’s activities. Schedule meal times, one or more activities, etc. This provides your child with some structure, even in a different place. You may need to add extra details you don’t normally, in order to keep your child focused on activities and not on stress.
A Little Planning Ahead Helps Children (and Parents) Enjoy the Holidays More
The holidays are a time for us all to give thanks and spend happy times with loved ones. If you plan ahead and enlist the help of family & friends, the whole family will have a great time.
Here are some additional resources to help your holiday preparations:
Everyone at A is for Apple hopes you & your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!
See you next month.
Fun Activity: How to Make Kinetic Sand
Does your child love touching objects? Make them Kinetic Sand! Its tactile nature provides a wonderful touch sensation for children. Making it is easy, and a fun project for kids to take part in.
Here’s a low-cost recipe you can use.
- 5 cups Sand (about 10 lbs) – free or nearly free, if you have it
- 1 cup and 3 tablespoons Cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon Dish Soap (like Dawn Dishwashing Liquid)
- Water (about 1 cup)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon Tea Tree Oil (for antibacterial properties)
To make the kinetic sand:
Put the sand in a container. Add corn starch, and mix it in thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix the water & dish soap. Then add it to the sand. Mix it all together thoroughly, and enjoy!
Store in a covered container when you’re done.
If you want to make a bigger batch, there’s a recipe on this page: Make Your Own Kinetic Sand (10 lbs for 50 cents!) – GimmieFreebies.com
Autism Tips: Involving Your Child in Holiday Cooking
Looking for a way to involve your child in holiday preparations? Try the cooking!
Every holiday comes with lots of cooking. There are always some simpler cooking processes which children not only do well at, but love doing.
(NOTE: Before cooking actual food, expose your child to some similar sensory activities. For instance, playing with Play-Doh or Kinetic Sand (above), finger painting, gluing, or water play. Keep your child’s likes & dislikes in mind.)
For young kids who want to help with parts of the cooking process, start them off with simple “Play-Doh” types of activities. Mixing and stirring, for example.
Here are some simple recipes that involve smashing, poking, cutting, rolling, etc. Great for kids to enjoy themselves AND make something delicious.
If your child likes to follow visual schedules or is good at visual task analysis, try using visual step-by-step recipes with them. Here’s a website with visual Thanksgiving recipes: Free Thanksgiving Visual Recipes – TheAutismHelper.com
Share your holiday cooking pictures with us on Facebook! Here’s our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AisforAppleInc/
Ask AIFA: How can I get my children to play together?
“Dear A is for Apple,
My other children aren’t sure about playing with their brother (who has special needs). How can I encourage them to play together?”
Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Set some guidelines first. Gather all your children and explain the behavior your special-needs child may display. Tell the children when it’s okay to leave him or her alone, and when it’s okay to hug them!
- Time your activities. Try a new activity for a short time, and see how everyone reacts. For instance, rolling a ball back and forth between two children. This is also a good way to introduce your special-needs child to new activities, alongside their siblings.
- Initiate some family play. For example, read a story out loud and ask your children to act it out. Or give each child bubbles to blow.
Soon your children will see how, with only minor guidelines, play is normal and fun for everyone!
A helpful book is “Special Brothers and Sisters.” It’s a collection of real-life accounts from the brothers and sisters of children with special needs. You’ll find caring stories and a lot of good advice.
Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in a future newsletter.
Inside A is for Apple
We are now an Easter Seals in-provider network for Kaiser Patients!
A is for Apple is now part of the Easter Seals network!
Lots of parents have requested our services through Easter Seals. In the past we were unable to take them because we weren’t in-network for them. Now we can take them.
Plus, this also opens up our ability to take on children who have Kaiser Insurance. Now, if you have insurance through Kaiser, our ABA therapy services are available to your children.
Do you know someone who has Kaiser Insurance and needs help for their child? Have them request A is for Apple through their Easter Seals coordinator.