I am writing this on Thanksgiving morning, between the breakfast I made and the “feast” we are attending at 1:00 today. So I had a little time and a lot of thoughts.

There is something about the holiday time that is always magical but also, most always challenging to those who have special needs.

There is the change 

of routine, new faces to see, louder conversations (at least in our home, I think it is the Italian thing) , new foods, lack of sleep.

So adding in all those variables can lead to a change in behaviors for your special needs child. Heck, it affects us all too, it is just that we can manage our emotions and reactions in a better way.

Elizabeth’s Dyspraxia and her Sensory Processing Disorder make the holidays a challenge for her. Not always on the first day off, and not on the second, but by the third day off, I can see signs of a sensory overload starting. She is back to answering questions in shorter sentences, sometimes in one word answers. She wants to watch television more than her normal amount and her favorite word and default setting is “No”.

She says that two letter word in response to most things asked, it is the easiest way she has to bow out of any and all requests. When just getting through the day is hard work, anything else is just too much. So “NO” it is. We don’t like to hear that answer all the time, but we get how she works and why she says it. So we at least understand.

The thing about the holidays is that we have this huge amount of warning that they are coming. We know about Christmas way back in July (thank you to the TV shopping networks ode to “Christmas in July”) and when we are planning Halloween outfits, we have to push away the red and green items to get to the candy. So my point is, since we have all that warning, it is great that we can use it to help our child’s sensory needs.

And it is really up to us to prepare our special needs children to not only face the holiday time, but to have as much enjoyment as possible.

I think talking about the holidays is a good starting point, at least for us. I will start by getting out the calendar and in colored wipe off markers, write down any event we know about. Including days off, shopping times, friend visits and on and on.

Then we talk about them a bit. Sort of a synopsis of what we are doing so that when she goes to the calendar herself, she will have some idea of what each event kind of means.

Then comes the planning for those events as they get closer.


-What kinds of food will be there?

-Who will be there?

-Will the place be big and loud or a small house party?

-What sensory items will I need to bring? Or what sensory breaks can we plan?

These are all things that can be thought out ahead of time.

Then try to update the calendar as needed and review it often.

I know we make a schedule for the week anyway, but for the holiday time, we make sure to review it often.

To allow for questions from her, an assessment of her changing needs from me and last minute plan adjustments.

Right now I am watching Elizabeth, watch her Dad and little brother play Mario Cart. She is happy to be part of the day off with her family.

But we have already made the days schedule, discussed it twice and packed a bag of some snacks she is taking to her Aunt’s house in the event that she is hungry and the food is not some of her favorites.

Will she love the party? Our hopes are yes. But if she is overloaded and needs a sensory break as part of her sensory diet for the day, we know that we can take a walk and she will bring her phone and headphones to relax.

So on this day of Thanksgiving, when we are looking headlong into the magical and wonderful holiday season. I offer to use all the knowledge you have about your child and their special needs to make the holidays all they can be for everyone.

I wish you all a peaceful week.