We have a chalkboard on the wall in the kitchen.  Typically, I would put little sayings on it from time to time or I would forget and leave something up there for way longer than it should be.  But the chalkboard has seen some new life this month because everyday day Michael is using it to do the official countdown to Christmas.  Basically what you see are the words.  “Days until Christmas” then a smear of erased chalk marks and in that smear, the current number of days left.  He is excited for the holiday and all it represents and brings and of course, time off from school!

And as much fun as it can be to have everyone off from school, it does pose certain challenges especially for our children with special needs.   The schedule that you have in place is not one you will most likely have this week off.  I know that for us, a bit of planning for this week was very helpful to make it as fun and calm for Elizabeth.  She is our daughter who has special needs.  She has Sensory Processing Disorder ( SPD) and Dyspraxia.

So I thought I would share some of planning we did for Elizabeth.

KEEP THE DIET

By this I do not mean anything related to the wonderful holiday cookies. I am referencing the sensory  diet that so many of our children have.  It is hard to maintain it with a vacation week but it is so very helpful to try your best.

If your child typically needs a break mid afternoon, maybe try your best to allow for that time for him or her.  Or if your child usually has some quiet music time in the morning, try your best to make sure that your day’s schedule will incorporate this.

When you are planning your week, allowing for and adjusting for these sensory needs helps your child enjoy the week as best as they can!

SCHEDULE

By this I do not mean make a schedule that is so full!  It means make a schedule of your week.  One that is done together with your special needs child.  For Elizabeth, a visual learner, this type of schedule that is right on the table and can be referenced as needed is very important to her and her days.

On the schedule we write down any and all things we are thinking of doing.  We write down times and who will be going.  We also write down what we will be doing for meals on those busy days so that if we are planning to go out to eat or order in, she can voice her opinion of what she wants. ( and trust me, she does!)

The point is that having a plan for the week helps keep the anxiety down.  It takes away the “what-ifs” and gives her time to plan for and adjust to this time off.   Because we all know that changes and transitions can be challenging to our special children.

TALK

Elizabeth and I do this all the time. We talk about her feelings, anxiety, excitement and more.  We work hard to make time to do this because allowing her to talk helps her feel better when stressed or overwhelmed.  It allows her to hear me as I tell her about our plans and other things.

For us, I cannot over emphasize the importance of these “chat times”   So if you can, make time to talk during the time off.  Kind of check in with them so that if they are struggling a bit, you can help them or make changes that make the time off enjoyable for everyone.

SAY NO

No, not to everyone!  But do not be afraid to decline an event or outing if your child needs the break or looks overwhelmed.   I have said it before and will again, more is not always better.    Being honest with those who are in your life and gently declining something is really okay.   Maybe go to a plan B, where other members of your family do something and your special needs child gets to sit it out.

Whatever way it works, acknowledging the need to decline is okay.  Not always easy, but okay.

So with our chalkboard indicating just a few more days left,  I wish everyone a peaceful, fun and memory making break!

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