I am always the one who says to the kind sole who announces ” I’m all done with my shopping for the holidays” that I am happy for them but that I will be starting my shopping when the calendar flips to December.

I am not kidding here, I usually feel washes of emotions compelling me to start shopping in November and maybe I will see a random gift here or there and grab it but I usually procrastinate and ward off those above feelings until December officially arrives and then I make lists and sigh and then start.

I think I wait NOW because it is easy to put it off especially when I am getting ready to do Thanksgiving and I guess my brain is happy concentrating on one holiday at a time at this time in my life. Trust me, I give credit to those who are able to focus on 2 big holidays at the same time

And because in our family, we take turns opening gifts and go around in a circle as we do it. So that means that everyone needs to have the same amount of gifts as the next person. So there is a sort of pressure here to achieve this. I have been known to wait until the house is empty and put out the gifts and count and recount them.

But I will share with you why I waited BEFORE:

You know the BEFORE…

BEFORE when Elizabeth was young and in the throes of her SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder)

BEFORE when she was struggling to do anything due to her Global Dyspraxia

BEFORE when she was non-verbal and struggling to make any noise other than crying.

Yes that BEFORE

The thing then was that I could shop and find toy after toy or item after item for Emily, our oldest child. That was the easy part. Almost too easy, really. Because once we were done with her items and list, we then had to face the very real reality that we did not know really what to buy for Elizabeth.

I mean we could have used her age as a guide, but those with dyspraxia are typically developmentally years younger than their real age, so that did not help.

We could buy her things that we saw on the popular network that begins with an “N and ends with a N” and hope for the best.

I mean it was not possible to really ask her and we did talk with her therapists to see what they recommended but you have to remember that this was back in the time that ordering on the internet was not a real option and the Amazon truck was not a reality yet.

So, it left shopping and looking aisle after aisle. All the while trying not to cry as the reality of our little one and her very real needs hit us. We always found items but if I am being truthful, most of them were not played with or happily used.

I know I am not alone at all in this set of emotions, when what SHOULD be simply ISN’T.

I think if I could go back and help and tell my younger self anything, it would be that the gift doesn’t have to be a therapy toy to help achieve a therapy goal. Who really thought about Playdough working on hand strength? To me back then, it was just a fun thing that Emily played with and tried to eat.

Or that you can work on skills like cutting while using Play dough.

Or that a colored light bulb can work as part of a sensory break room (Elizabeth loves blue and that is what shines bright in her room) Oh and it also works as a cool night light.

Or that a hop scotch set can be used to work on jumping skills, number recognition and balance.

I know that I would also tell my younger self to always think of the OTHER purpose for that toy. Think motor skills, writing skills, communication skills. Think if it could help with sensory issues, maybe be calming, maybe be the perfect addition to your sensory seeker.

I would also tell my younger self to think if you think you can see you using that toy in your child’s home therapy follow up I mean sure that drum would be great to use to count beats and work on rhythm and hand strength but would you REALLY want to make that part of your day each day.

I guess what I am saying here is that if I knew back then what I know now about holiday shopping I would not have seen it as the emotional event that it was I might see it as the chance to add some great items to help my daughter work on necessary skills and to make this work FUN for her.

So maybe if you feel now like I used to feel, maybe this blog has the words and thoughts that will help you. I hope so.

For me? Well……December 1st isn’t that far off….

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of Elizabeth Believes in Herself.

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I was reading some of my previous blogs about the holidays, how to schedule things, when to schedule things and actually so much more. I guess I have a lot to say about this wonderful time of the year.

Probably because it is also a hugely stressful time of the year. And this goes for everyone and that much more for our children with special needs.

I am not alone in noticing the quite obvious checkered flag of “GO” that is being waved at every turn when you are in a store and see red and green decorations especially when you are trying to buy Halloween candy only.

GO

GO

GO

Shopping, buying, planning…….. Unless you are like my dear friend who happily shared, she is DONE with her shopping and prep for the holidays. So, because I like her so much, I am willing to overlook this.

But that brings to mind the next big thing of the holidays and that is doing all the GO, GO, GO to get to the island of DONE.

How many and I mean MANY times do we get asked and probably do the asking, are you done with your shopping yet?

DONE is the goal.

But in all this our children with special needs are still navigating their typical day to day life, which is hard work for them and then the holiday time arrives and the schedules they know are changed, the faces they see are changed, the food they are presented with changed and…….

I think that one of the most important things to help the holidays go well for your child with special needs as well as the family is having the knowledge of how your child works and and their specific needs and to be able think of those as you make the plans, events or schedules.

I have said before so many times that knowing your child’s needs, how they work and what WILL work for them allows such growth and understanding. I think this holds true so much for the holidays as well.

I think that the holiday time has so many wonderful, beautiful things with it. The traditions that make it special and bring to current day the relatives not able to be here anymore or the music that makes you reflect and pray or that fun it is to watch that one holiday movie for the 12th time and on and on.

But, if your child doesn’t like to make cookies because of the sensory issues with cooking, then planning for them to be part of the holiday cooking bake will probably be something that causes anxiety to you, those there and your child. Maybe that is a good time to arrange something else that they like during that time. Or if game night, after 15 minutes, becomes overloading to them. then maybe they hang in only that long and you don’t ( Michele) keep encouraging them (Elizabeth ) to stay in the game.

I say this from experience because trust me I WANTED SO BADLY for Elizabeth to do certain things on the holidays. So for many years, I would try to encourage her to be part of this or that, knowing that in previous years it did NOT go well.

But I kept trying until I took a good, hard look and saw that she was NOT having fun at all and if that was the case, why was I really making her do it? And then I took a look at everyone and realized that everyone was sort of paying more attention to Elizabeth and how she was feeling that I thought.

So I think as we are now in early November, it is a really good time to take that look at your beautiful child with special needs and what do they like, dislike, want to do, not want to do this year. It is okay, it really is, if they sit out on something that to them is really anxiety provoking. Hard as that is for us, it is the best for them.

And work with those as you plan the holidays. Starting with Thanksgiving.

Then talk with family and friends to help them understand your child better. (Even if you had this talk last year, our children and their needs change often)

Then something I need to remember is to celebrate what they CAN DO and DID not what you hoped they would do

So as we see that checkered flag and find ourselves on the GO to take that time to really look and plan for your child because time is on our side right now. And we want the holidays to be enjoyed by all and the memories to be made in abundance!

Now I have to start a shopping list for Thanksgiving and know that Elizabeth will be with me as we shop because I KNOW this is something she enjoys and wants to do.

I wish everyone a peaceful week,

Michele Gianetti author of I Believe In You

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