So the conversation started out with a question:

” So what are we doing on Wednesday?”

The question came from Elizabeth and Wednesday would be her official first day off for Thanksgiving break.

So I answered it.

In detail.

Vivid detail.  And those details included getting the house ready for our holiday dinner, shopping a bit, cleaning the house…. and as I said it all, I watched how she started to look anxious.   My first thought at the anxiety look was: wow does the day look that bad to you too??

Then I asked her what she wanted to do Wednesday and I was told “relax”  Then she took a deep breath and asked if I would make sure to make her a schedule “for everyday I am off”  I said of course I would.

And this got me thinking…

The holidays to us can represent a go.  From the insane black Friday sale days through parties, new foods and events all the way through last minute shopping and the actual holiday itself.

That is what they represent to us but what I think needs mentioning is that the holidays represent so much more to our special needs children.  They can increase anxiety, overloads and  meltdowns.  They can result in a bad sleep pattern, withdrawal from things and a change in moods.

What I have learned on our journey with Elizabeth and her disorders of Sensory Processing Disorder ( SPD) and Dyspraxia, is that there are some core things that need to be done for her and her system to allow her to join in the wonderful, crazy, fun time that is December.  It is like keeping the core of her world calm and helping her stay organized allows her to look up at the world swirling around her and know she can join in as much as she can because those key, important things are taken care of and are in order for her.

So for us, the schedule is literally number one.  It is not set in stone by any means but it gives the day shape.  Because an open ended day for her can be as anxiety producing as a too busy day would be for me.  It gives her a plan.

Talking through what we are going to do is so helpful because it gives her an idea of what motor skills she will be needing to do, what sensory things she will encounter and it gives her time to talk about her feelings on this things.   It also allows her to mentally prepare.  Because transitions for all of us can be hard and they can be so much more so for our special needs children.

Encouraging her to speak up for herself is big too!!  It allows her to tell us when she needs a break, when she does not think she can do something or when her choice of an activity differs from ours.   It also begins the conversation I was just talking about.

Elizabeth is beyond thrilled to be off and is so looking  forward to our big dinner so we really want it to be fun for her.  We will do all the things we can to help her.

So my big old thought in all this is to remember to do those things, even if they are little ones, that help your child enjoy their holidays and make those memories.

So tomorrow morning, like yesterday you will find me helping her make the schedule for the day and who knows, depending on my stress, I may just make one for myself.

I wish everyone a peaceful week!

Michele Gianetti author of ” I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’ Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”