Holidays are a time for excitement, enjoyment and pleasure. Here are a few tips from The American Occupational Therapy Association that can be put in place to help your child(ren) attain the most positive holiday experience;
Talk to your children to help them prepare beforehand about what to expect and why it's okay.
Rehearsing and reviewing activities through stories, songs and pictures will help your child anticipate activities and have fun.
Children should get used to their costumes a few days before Halloween to see if they are comfortable. Avoid costumes with masks or exposed tags. Make-up may feel slimy, and its smell may be offensive. Your child may think the fabric is too scratchy, tight or stiff. Making your own costume together may be a better alternative.
Practice trick-or-treating by walking to your own front door and practice receiving candy. Try trick-or-treating on quiet streets or only at the homes of family and friends. Try to avoid homes with flashing lights, loud noises and scary decorations.
Be aware of your child's body language and behavior for signs of sensory overload.
The Holidays can be positive stimulation for most in our community; giving and receiving presents, holiday parties, tasty foods and shopping. Many people look forward to and expect a busy environment around them. Although most children like the idea of the holidays, for some it can be very intense to cope with in a multisensory environment and even frightening when the body is attempting to process and interpret senses leading to a possible meltdown. Some sensory sensitivity such as noise, touch, taste, movement and sight can be difficult to process when a child is in distress from sensory processing disorder (SPD).
A child that might be suffering from SPD may not look forward to gatherings, parties, new sounds or sights. A child may be sensitive to noise therefore he or she would not appreciate carolers or holidays lights. Other children dislike busy crowds or being brushed up against in busy environments. As children attempt to cope with the unwanted or under-/over-processed stimuli, they may act out representing undesired actions that may be extreme and inappropriate for a certain event.
There are ways to help a child deal with this time of year that can benefit the whole family's experiences. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Sensitivity to sound - providing a child with headphones with soft music or ear plugs may ease a child through noisy environments.
Sensitivity to movement or touch - informing the child on what to expect when in crowded environments is very helpful. Also, providing them deep touch to the arms, back and legs before the experience is helpful. Bringing along a "sensory" backpack (any backpack filled with calming toys or toys for your child to fidget with when he/she feels anxious or over-stimulated) can be helpful.
Sensitivity to light - wearing a hat or sun glasses to block out or filter lights can be very beneficial.
Food sensitivity - having the child try certain non-preferred foods at home can help to give the child exposure to tolerate foods that they may encounter during a holiday event. Bringing alternative foods for the child can also be an option.
Having an escape plan to head out of an unwanted situation is very helpful. This may be as simple as finding a quiet corner in the existing environment or needing to head home. Keep an eye on the signs that the situation is escalating to a point where a change of environment is necessary. Sometimes alerting the host that you may need to leave to take care of matters earlier than expected can be beneficial to everyone.
Holidays can be stressful to nearly everyone. Having plans in place to help alleviate sensory overload will only help to make your holiday experience a bit more pleasant.
Everyone here at Therapy Kinections wants to wish you and your family a pleasant, safe and enjoyable holiday season.