Holidays can be stressful for all families, but changes in routine, contact with unfamiliar people, and altered diets can be especially hard on children with disabilities. Here are a few tips to lower everyone's stress level:
Did you know that the TSA has a page with information just for people with disabilities? For example, children with disabilities can be screened without being separated from their parents, and in a manner that best meets their needs. Medically required liquids (medications, breast milk, etc.) can be brought on board an aircraft, although they may be subject to additional screening. Those who have difficulty being touched can undergo a special pat down. Individuals who need special assistance can be provided with a passenger support specialist to provide help. For more information on other accommodations, go to http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/travelers-disabilities-and-medical-conditions
Preparation is key. Inform guests and relatives of the child's needs, including unusual behaviors or dietary needs. Teach your child who will be in attendance, including their names. Create a visual schedule of events and teach "party rules". You should also role-play typical scenarios such as greetings and how to accept a gift properly. Bring quiet activities to prevent meltdowns, and make sure there is a quiet place to de-stress or take a sensory or movement break. Try to keep to as much of a typical routine as you can. Some families choose to spend the holidays at home and choose to visit during a less busy time.
Part of the festivities is the opportunity to eat special foods. This can be a challenge for those with sensory food problems related to type or texture. You may want to have the child help select and prepare food, introduce new foods in a gradual manner, and use a schedule for behavior support.
Sometimes the child with special needs requires so much time and attention that the siblings may feel overlooked. Take some time to enjoy yourself with your loved ones, and have some well-earned relaxation.
What are your best holiday tips?