The end of the year provides many opportunities for holiday celebrations and gatherings. Although many of us would like to join in on the festivities and raise a glass to the New Year, these celebrations can be sensory nightmares for those in our families who are impacted by sensory challenges. Visiting is possible with these five holiday visit tips.
All the noisy exchanges, dazzling holiday lights and enthusiastic social interactions come together in one house and for many children, this can be overwhelming. Some families may choose to hire a care giver for their child or simply stay home as a family, but what if your whole family wants to venture out and enjoy these festivities together?
Prior to accepting an invitation to a holiday celebration, take some time to discuss your child’s isms with the party’s host. Offering a heads-up about your child and his/her isms will make it easier on all and won’t blind-side a busy host.
Mention the ideas and strategies you will be using to ensure that your child enjoys the party as much as everyone else. Your host might have additional suggestions for your child’s success. If you sense your host back-peddling on the invitation, you may choose to reconsider whether “this” is right the party for your whole family.
Holiday Visit Tips
Seek Out a Safe Space
Holiday visit tips #1 – Try to find a special safe space or room that can be made available for your child to retreat to for a quiet “away-from-the-party” experience.
Set the lights low. Low lights create a sense of calm and reduce stimulation.
Provide a soft, comfortable place for your child to sit. Bring a favorite blanket, pillow or stuffed animal.
Find a room with a TV or DVD player option to watch favorite movies. Alternatively, bring an iPad with favorite games and movies.
Remember to have someone check frequently for your child’s safety. Rotate with other family members to share the responsibility.
Set a Time Limit
Holiday visit tips #2 – Before arriving at the party, create a reasonable time-table for how long you will stay.
Use countdown visuals and a timer so your child knows there is an end to this activity.
Explore countdown ideas in Holiday Gatherings: Sensory Kids Can Thrive
If your child is doing well when the time expires, you can consider asking the child if he/she wants to stay longer. However, you may be better off leaving as planned on a positive note.
Create a Sensory Survival Kit
Holiday visit tips #3 – You may not have the luxury of a safe space, but a sensory survival kit can be just as handy. Consider some of these items:
Noise cancelling headphones to listen to favorite music on a music device
Sensory fidget toys. Explore The 101 on Fidgets
Comfy blanket or stuffed toy
Soft pajamas to change into as the celebration progresses or for the ride home.
Pack a Busy Bag
Holiday visit tips #4 – Don’t assume your party host will have activities to entertain your child. Fill a backpack with fun activities.
Consider your child’s favorite DVDs. As mentioned above, consider bringing an iPad or tablet for your child to watch favorite shows or movies.
Consider purchasing a one or two new toys for your child to discover.
Indulge in a Picnic Pack
Holiday visit tips #5 – Most of us love holiday food. However, not all sensory kids love holiday foods. Make sure your child has food to enjoy if he/she doesn’t join you at the dinner table.
Bring a holiday table-cloth as a picnic blanket.
Pack fun holiday no-spill drink containers filled with a favored beverage. Be sure to pack extra napkins too!
Include several food options and snacks your child enjoys. Consider oral sensory snacks!
Explore More >> Help Regulate Kids with Oral Sensory Snacks
Bring a container of bite-sized desserts.
Don’t forget Wet Wipes for sticky fingers.
A little preparation for your child before arriving at a party might make this a successful event for everyone. Keep in mind, you are a guest. If your plans don’t go right, don’t overstay your welcome. Sometimes baby-steps and small time increments are the best ways to start introducing your child to festive social events. Don’t be discouraged if all doesn’t go well on your first or second attempt. If you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them on Special-Ism’s Facebook Page!