For most children, December kicks off the start of their favorite month of the year – The Holidays!  For “Sensory” kids – those with anxiety disorder, sensory integration dysfunction, learning challenges, ADD/ADHD, obsessive/compulsive disorder, high-functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or other sensory challenges – this can be a time for year filled with uncomfortable experiences like changes in routines, lots of people visiting, and travel to unfamiliar places full of unfamiliar faces which can translate to challenging behavior.  As a professional home organizer and the parent of a sensory child, I know the importance of coming up with a few simple ways to provide extra support during the holidays to help your sensory child (and your whole family) enjoy a little more peace this holiday season!

  • Preparing for Changes in Routines:  Preparing our sensory child for what is coming is a one way to support them in their day-to-day experiences all year round.  This is especially true this time of year when there are frequent changes in their regular schedule. Create a visual support whenever possible before the change is coming.  Explain in pictures and/or words the new schedule making sure to highlight what they have done before successfully or people that will see that they enjoy.  Make sure to include a few options of what can be done when your child is overwhelmed or needs an break.
  • Visits and Interactions with New People:  Spontaneous visits can happen very frequently this time of year.  Try to set the expectation of more visits and social interactions. For younger sensory kids, try making a story about “People we see during the Holidays”.  You can also talk about the social expectations of these visits in the book – saying “hi” and introducing yourself to the visitor. For older sensory kids, make a laminated sheet that explains what you expect them to do socially with visitors, how long they need to stay and “visit” and when they can go do their own thing.
  • Make HolidayTravel Easier:  Again, preparation ahead of time is key to making holiday travel easy on yourself, your family and your sensory child.  Give your sensory child a visual of where you are going via online sites, pictures of the family home you will be staying at and the people you will be seeing.   For younger sensory kids, make a trip book that explains what will happen during your travels. During your visit, set-up a space for your child that is their “escape and regulate” spot that holds the toys or things that are calming and relaxing for them.
  • Create a Relevant Sensory Tradition:  Since this time of year can have so many experiences that are uncomfortable or overwhelming for sensory kids, create a holiday tradition that is relevant to something they really love to do or incorporates a fascination.  This can be as simple as having their own special ornaments for the tree.  You could also sit down with your sensory child and have them list their favorite things of the season. Try to build-in one of these activities every week highlighting it on the visual calendar.  Having something to look forward to can help our sensory kids get through some of the more difficult holiday experiences.

This time of year can be a stressful time for all of us and this is especially true for our rigid, anxious, or distracted kids.  Moving into this season with some tools on hand can help you support yourself, your family, and your sensory child.

Here’s to simple sensory solutions for more peaceful days!  HO!HO!HO!