Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hurry Up, Christmas! Helping Children with Special Needs Wait

Waiting for something as exciting as Christmas is difficult for any child, and many adults. When you add the impulsivity, short attention spans, and reduced behavioral control that comes with many disabilities, the month of December becomes interminably long. There are several things you can try to improve your youngster's outlook and the mood of the entire family. 

There are many countdown calendars commercially available. My children enjoyed moving a bear around his house on a wall hanging until he finally found Christmas on December 25. Other kinds have drawers for small treats, different activities to do each day, or a number countdown. This visual reminder helps your child understand the passage of time and how to be patient when waiting. 

The best countdown calendars include special activities or treats. This helps your youngster look forward to smaller, more frequent events. The expectations aren't as high, so there is less risk of disappointment or sensory overload. It also serves as a distraction as you focus on short-term waits rather than the month-long ordeal. 

You may also want to practice relaxation exercises to help develop patience and anxiety reduction. Try some yoga from a class or DVD,    You can learn some techniques on about.com, from create to speak, or Stress Free Kids

Another method to help children with special needs at Christmas time is to perform service. Consider the activities your family member really enjoys, then look for ways to use this talent to help others. If he or she enjoys Internet activities, a coat or toy drive could be coordinated. Bakers could make treats to take to others. Musicians could share their talent at a nursing home or day care center. Artists could create cards or posters. Crafters might make gifts to donate to charity. Serving others helps develop talents, and creates a new perspective as these youngsters learn to understand the point of view of others and to appreciate the blessings in their own lives. 

How do you help your youngster wait for Christmas?