23 Dec Having a Sensory Friendly Christmas Holiday
It is that time of year again. Lots of music, smells, and colorful lights, often all at once. It is part of what make the holiday season so unique. However, if your child has sensory issues or a sensory sensitivity, this can be a very difficult and overstimulating few months for him. Keeping his preferences and avoidances in mind, as you start to decorate and prepare, can make a huge difference between enjoyment and meltdown. Each child is different, and you as a parent know what works best for him. Here are a few suggestions and tips that can help make your holiday season at home, a good experience for everyone.
Keep lights simple.
Light is commonly one of the biggest issues for a child with sensory sensitivities. Blinking and brightly colored Christmas lights are often found on trees, houses, and in a lot of decorations. Consider solid color, non blinking lights. Limiting the light decorations around the house, or limiting how much is on at one time, may also be helpful. Since most Christmas lights are meant to be bright, a tree or outlet dimmer may be a smart investment.
Use sensory friendly and kid-proof decorations.
If you are like most families, you probably have a decoration or an ornament or two that are sentimental and special. It would be a shame for these items to get broken or ruined. If not putting them out, is not an option, make sure they are well out of reach. Securely anchor your Christmas tree, so that it can not be pulled over, and place glass and important ornaments up top, out of reach. Have your child make her own special ornaments made of paper, cloth, and other, texture-rich, but unbreakable materials.
Be selective on music.
Holiday music comes in all forms, from every genre. Soft, mellow music is often a good place to start, and you can easily begin to expand the selection to find out which music he likes. After a few days you can build a playlist of all his favorite and tolerated songs.
Plan your holiday dinner accordingly.
There are certain dishes that are generally served for holiday dinners, however nothing is set in stone. If your child loves mac and cheese, include it as a side. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage her to try new foods, but by having at least one preferred dish, you can help minimize the risk of meltdown and her not eating anything.
Keep special events to a minimum.
The holiday’s are, by far, the busiest time of year. They are normally filled with traveling or visiting family and friend, sometimes multiple visits during one day. This can be overwhelming for your child. Not only are there new places and people that he hasn’t seen since last year, but his comfortable routine is being changed. Plan your events with him in mind. Spread them out, if possible, and prepare him before hand. Show him photos from last year, use picture boards, or read books that can help make the transition easier.
Having a Sensory Friendly Christmas Holiday
Shandy Marso, Contributor