Tips For Stress-Free Holidays for Developmental Disabilities


Enjoying the Holidays with Developmentally Disabled/Special needs Individuals 

Navigating the holidays can be challenging for individuals with developmental disabilities. Here are tips for a more enjoyable and stress-free holiday season. The holidays and their festivities can bring about chaos that can be challenging for the developmentally disabled or those with special needs. Chaos during the holidays create a recipe for stress and sensory overload for children with developmental disabilities. Our childhood traditions and rituals may be a challenge with special needs children; however, simple practices can aid in resolving the stressors that our holiday festivities entail. Small amounts of preparation can go a very long way in ensuring the holidays are as wonderful as can be for individuals with developmental disabilities/special needs in the household. Following the few practices as described below can mean the difference between a tantrum-filled, stressful holiday season and a holiday season where your special needs child can create new, bright memories that all of us have. 

In this blog blog we will look at:

– Avoiding Crowds 

-Working On Gift Giving

-Preparing Your Family

-Reserving time for your individual

Avoiding Crowds for An Individual With Special Needs

Crowds are tough to deal with for many people, especially those with developmental disabilities.  Children who are overwhelmed from crowds are much more likely to have melt-downs or misbehave due to the stress that crowds can induce. Avoiding these crowds can be the simplest of solutions. Instead of attending large local events to enjoy the festivities, staying in the comfort of your car and attending some of your local light displays can be an easy fix. Another way to avoid crowds can be visiting holiday displays during off-hours or first thing in the morning when no one else is present. If visits to “Santa” means large crowds, google “sensory friendly Santa” and see if you can bring Santa to your home instead. If you are looking to have that same holiday experience without the complications of public crowds visit the DDD for developmentally disabled friendly events. Following these simple fixes can mean the difference between a tantrum-filled holiday season and a holiday season filled with pure bliss and joy. 

Working on Gift Giving With Developmental Disabilities

Gift giving is one of the key components of why the holiday season is so joyous for children. Children with developmental disorders or special needs may need different forms of gift giving in order to avoid sensory overload. Unwrapping presents, although exciting for most children, can be confusing for children with certain disorders. They may not know what to do with a present that is fully wrapped-up and hard to get into which can cause stress. Using gift bags or easily accessible wrapping is the easiest way to avoid these problems. If overstimulation is a problem for your child, maybe giving your child a big pile of presents with dozens of eyes staring at them is not the best idea. Handing the child one gift at a time without a crowd watching them  or opening presents when festivities are over may be necessary to avoid overstimulation. 

Preparing Your Family

Preparing your family and any visitors during the holiday can greatly increase the probability of a stress-free holiday season for your individual with special needs. As a parent, you understand your child better than anyone and you likely already know certain queues or signs that your child may be experiencing too much stimulation or a tantrum is about to happen. Letting your family and visitors know about these signs to look for can increase the chances of avoiding any tantrums from happening. Suggesting to your family that loud noises or putting your special needs child on the spot may cause overstimulation can be an easy way to decrease those chances of overstimulation from happening. Keeping your family and friends informed is key to ensuring your child has the best experience possible for the holiday season. 

Reserving Time for Your Individual With Developmental Disabilities

You can also plan activities inside your home or in a backyard if you have one. You all can stay home and make latkes or cookies, make paper garlands, cut snowflakes, or otherwise have crafty fun with your child. If you need to do most of the work, that’s ok. You can use the technique of backward chaining to get your child as involved in the activities as possible and also teach them your holiday traditions.

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