I am writing this after Thanksgiving has taken place this year.

And with full disclosure, we have not put up our Christmas tree yet, so the stress for Elizabeth was lessened by this.

But I will say that at this moment, Elizabeth has had a really, really good holiday. And by that, I mean her stress and anxiety were nicely low for the long weekend.

We went to a family member’s house for the holiday and typically this creates a stress in Elizabeth that, in my opinion, has no real reason other than it is an emotion that she continues to associate with gathering at this house from earlier times.

I know with Elizabeth’s special needs, many things can create anxiety for her. Her SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and Global Dyspraxia are the two disorders that affect her life each and everyday and create this anxiety for her.

So this anxiety for our relative’s house is directly related to her SPD and the fact that they hold onto any associations made with events, places, experiences etc. We have always been taught to “end it on a good note” with Elizabeth.

Apparently somewhere in the past, we did not do this for this particular situation.

And every time the plans are to go here, Elizabeth has a certain bunch of things she says that indicates anxiety.

And this time was no different.

She started the sentences early last week, how long are we staying, what will I eat, when will we leave…… and so we talked about the day and plan.

Multiple times

And then I remembered something important!!

I remembered something that I had read in an article, a LONG time ago and due to COVID, I haven’t had the chance to use it often but it is the way to prepare your child with special needs for a gathering. Be it a party at their home, a gathering elsewhere or guests staying at your house.

Well, I used the suggestions and guidance of this article and talked through with Elizabeth the expectations that we have for her for the time with our relatives on Thanksgiving.

Such as this is the outline of the day.

Here is what is expected of/from you.

List of expectations: Example: Sitting for the full meal, sitting for dessert, when you can excuse yourself for a break etc.

List of things that she can do when it is her break time.

When she is expected to return to the gathering or table.


Well, it was just what we needed.

She did great.

No more sentences- as she had her plan.

No more worrying- she knew when her break was.

No more asking questions- she was in charge of what was expected of her.

It was quite nice to see that she felt accomplished as we headed home.

We did this again when we had a rather impromptu “friendsgiving”

And it worked so well again.

I think the reason I call this the First holiday in my title is that sometimes for me, Thanksgiving is like a test drive to see just where there has been growth in social areas or it gives the opportunity to see where more supports are needed and in what areas.

Then you can work on some things in this time between the holidays and see if there are any positive changes that you can build on.

For me, each year that passes and each holiday gets compared to the previous one in my head…related to Elizabeth. Maybe not a great or healthy thing to do but it is what happens. I guess I am wired to do this and then decided what we need to do differently, the same or better in this or that area.

I know our children, like us, are a work in progress but to continue the progress, for me, requires a true and honest look at things. Then you can go from there.

So for us this year. The FIRST Thanksgiving family gathering back from COVID was one marked by a confident Elizabeth and one who had less anxiety. So that is a win!

And I will take it.

I hope that yours was a good one.

And I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of Elizabeth Believes in Herself.