Saturday, December 13, 2014

7 Holiday Tips for Children with Special Needs...Part 3 of 3

Holiday Parties

1) Give kids a job to do so that they will have a sense of belonging and success. Even something such as helping to create place markers for seating or setting the table can give kids a feeling of accomplishment. 

2)  Remember that heavy work is generally calming. Include activities such as moving chairs, picking up and placing dirty clothes into a basket and carrying it to the laundry room, or vacuuming are great ways to encourage children to help to prepare for the party. Kids can even pull each other in a wagon for fun and social heavy work!
Push, Pull, Lift, Carry...are the best ways to get heavy work input.
3)  Provide a "safe" sensory zone. Use blankets over a table, tents, or weighted blankets. All are excellent for calming and adding proprioceptive (deep pressure) input. There are many weighted options available:  weighted lap pads, weighted stuffed animals, and weighted backpacks. If using a tent place many pillows for squishy comfort, a flashlight for a feeling of security, or even calming music.
Weighted blanket from Amazon created by Fun and Function.

4) Encourage comfortable clothing and avoid new and scratchy clothing.  Family gatherings should be focused on providing fun memories and not on appearance. 

5) Practice greetings ahead of time.  My son does not enjoy hugs, so we practice reaching out his hand for a handshake or high five.  Let family and guests know ahead of time that your child shows affection, but in a different way. 

6) Consider food allergies and sensitivities.  Bring extra “safe” foods that match what others are eating to be sure children feel included.  For example, if cousins are eating macaroni and cheese, we prepare my son’s gluten free version and bring it along.  Out of respect for the host, talk with her ahead of time and thank her for hospitality.

7) Plan an “out” or an escape plan.  Even a short visit that is successful can create memories that last a lifetime!  Remind yourself that the holidays are about fun and not stress.  Don’t be hard on yourself or your child.

Don't be hard on yourself!

You've GOT this! Remember to take care of yourself during the holidays or anytime!
Until then, please spread the word about our blog and share with anyone who might need some extra ideas to help children with special needs.

Cara Koscinski MOT, OTR/L has her Master's degree in occupational therapy and is the homeschooling mother to two children with autism. Her website is She is the author of two books:  The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide and the Pocket Occupational Therapist for Caregivers of Children with Special Needs. 

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