“So what do you want to do over Christmas break Elizabeth?”  Such an innocent question.  One that if asked to any number of typically developing children would elicit  answers that range from asking for unlimited television watching, to some serious time to sleep in and lastly a  mind numbing amounts of video games…mostly Xbox one.  I did the leg work here and asked my 10 year old son.

The answer I got from Elizabeth was quite different.

“ I need a schedule”

Yes, that was literally the first thing that she asked for.

It wasn’t that she did not ask for time with her family or to go out to eat.  Those came next on her wish list. It was just the first thing she knew she needed was a schedule

And this got me thinking about how much different our special needs children view the holiday break than their typical peers.

From all my experience with Elizabeth and her special needs, I have come to realize many things about time off from school.  And I will share the following, from my perspective…

THEY NEED A SCHEDULE-  bet you did not see this one coming as number one!!??   (a bit of humor here), but in all seriousness the lack of a schedule, the complete openness of time and a challenge of Elizabeth needing to fill it herself, is overwhelming to her.

When we take a break from our schedules and sigh that we have “nothing to do today”  For Elizabeth that same statement can elicit quite a lot of anxiety.

So to combat this, I make her a schedule for each day.  Not a rigid, to the minute, schedule.  Just a gentle schedule to show her what we are planning for the day as well as the things she is going to do herself.  Such as exercise, bake, listen to music.

For her having the day take some shape is extremely comforting.

As an added bonus, for us, having a flexible schedule helps to teach Elizabeth that life is a fluid thing. That no matter how much you plan, you need to be flexible and accept changes in your day.  Just like all of us.

THEY NEED A SCHEDULE PART 2-  sure it does read like the first one, but in this case I am talking about a visual calendar for the week they are off.

I use a wipe off white board calendar that has the whole month on it.

I talk to Elizabeth about the things we are going to do that will require further talking.

Like, going sled riding.

I will put it on the schedule for the day we are planning it and it allows her to see it, to know it is coming and to allow for her and us to tell her about it.

It allows her to get ready ahead of time.  And that helps her plan what to expect

All this allows her to better enjoy events that may come around only this time of year.

MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER- please please trust me on this one.  The very vivid memories of a certain Christmas break many years ago, still haunt me.  

We went here, we went there, we ate out, we went to a Christmas village, we ate out again, and we watched a meltdown.  Mostly Elizabeth’s, partly mine.

All that was in one day.

All that was too much.

I have learned that some is better than all.  And that it is okay to be okay with it.

Just today, I had to tell my older brother that we could not go to Disney on Ice next week because our week was so full already.  Sure there was little part of me that said.  “ YES! Let’s make it work”  But the truth is, I know it would be too much.

So we are making plans for a quick dinner together instead.

Knowing the limits of your child and being okay with them is a good thing.  I was a bit of a stubborn learner.  So I offer this to help others.

RELAX AND REGROUP-

When you make your schedule, please put these on the schedule each day.

Whatever shape it takes for your child, make the time for it.

A bit of down time is an amazing thing.  Again, trust me on this one.

MAKE THOSE MEMORIES

Our holiday schedule may pale as compared to other families, but it works for us.

We treasure the time we have together and the successes of our Elizabeth.

So make the memories your way.

I wish everyone a good week.

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