Family Focus Resource Center

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December 1, 2014

Get tips from our staff of parents on how to enjoy the holiday season when you have a child with special needs!

When you have a child with special needs, sometimes you need to modify your holiday traditions in order to make it work for you and your child. For example, you need to be aware of your child’s medical or social needs away from home, accessibility issues and modifying family traditions so that they work for you and your family.

General Tips

  • Try to stick to your routine as much as possible (bedtime, storytime, etc.)
  • Decide if you’re going to keep therapy appointments or not

Choose your holiday events and gatherings carefully

  • don’t take on too many events or gatherings
  • put your child’s safety, routine and well-being first
  • consider suggesting changes to family tradition if it will be too difficult for you or your child(ren)
  • sometimes low key is best!

Tips for Gatherings

  • If you plan to take your child to a gathering of family and friends, prepare your child(ren) for the
  • gathering by telling them where you will go, how long you will stay, who you will see and what you will
  • do
  • use visual tools such as pictures of relatives and relative’s homes, especially for kids who are not yet speaking or who have communication challenges
  • pack some essentials for your child so that they can enjoy the gathering as much as possible (food, medication
  • change of clothes/diaper bag, soothing items such as a blanket, favorite toy, music, DVD player, iPod/iPad)

Tips for Gatherings in Your Home

  • think about putting away toys that are “special” to your child or could get taken apart, etc…before you have visitors. To prepare your child by telling them this will keep toy safe
  • Make sure your child can still access a quiet place with additional people visiting their home

Tips for Gatherings in Other People’s Homes

  • prepare your host for what to expect (your child’s habits and needs)
  • information about pet allergies, fear of pets or if child may be rough with pets
  • if they ask what you need, tell them (favorite foods, etc.)
  • tell them you may only be able to stay for a short time
  • ask if there is a quiet place for you and your child(ren) to go if necessary
  • talk to family about greeting kids quietly, letting them ease in…decompress
  • have a plan for leaving early if needed/create a quiet signal with spouse or family member
  • if you have to leave to go home or a hotel, make alternate plan in case sibling wants to stay and play (with cousins) so it’s not always about their other sibling

If you plan to travel…

  • prepare your child(ren) for the trip by telling them where you will go, how long you will be gone, where you will stay, who you will see, etc showing your child pictures of the places you will go and who you will see
  • if visual aids are helpful parents can include pictures of the airport, planes to show their kids before leaving…create a flip book
  • pack toys or items to keep your child busy while traveling
  • If you are staying at a hotel, plan ahead and ask if you can check in early or check out late
  • Plan stops if driving several hours, map out parks, McDonald’s or other places to stop and stretch, get wiggles out and let your child know when a break is coming (give them a set amount of time to avoid meltdowns)

If Flying

  • pack your child(ren)’s food and medication as separate carry-ons
  • when your tickets are booked you can make special requests like boarding and early and seating near the restroom
  • Visit or call 1-866-289-9673 with any questions regarding travel and your child with special needs or to look at recent changes to screenings regarding children under 12.

Safety/Emergency Paperwork

  • Create a document that contains essential paper work about your child (e.g., name, contact information, diagnosis, pertinent health info, likes & dislikes and a recent picture)