How to Prep for Holiday Parties for Children with Special Needs

The holidays are officially in full swing and I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed! Cooking, cleaning, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, organizing outings, decorating, working, and spending time with friends and family – WOW! There’s so much to do and so many people to see. For many of us, going to parties and seeing friends and family are the highlights of our holiday season (egg nog, anyone?).  But, for some kids, it can be terrifying. Routines are altered and parties are loud, busy, and filled with sights, sounds, and smells that can overwhelm your child.

Here are 5 tips to prepare your child for your upcoming holiday parties and outings:

1.    Give your child plenty of prep time before the party.
Use visuals such as a calendar to count down the days to the event. Talk to him about where he is going to be, what and who he’s going to see, and how it’s going to look, sound, and smell.
2.    Show him pictures from last year’s party.
Many children are visual learners and seeing their friends and family in old pictures will help remind them about the festivities last year. This visualization will show them what they might see and decrease any anxiety they may have. Find some pictures of your child having fun and be sure to show him how exciting holiday parties can be! Making a book of photos would be a fun activity and something you can bring along with you!
3.    Take things one step at a time.
If your child is feeling overwhelmed when you pull up to Grandma’s, sit in the car with him for a minute and help him calm down – you can even bring along the pictures from last year to show him again. If your child seems anxious or frightened once he enters the house, take him to a quiet room and help him become acclimated. It’s a process and he needs you to help him through it!
4.    Picky or problem eater? Bring familiar foods with you.
Eating can be stressful, especially in front of a lot of people with unfamiliar food. Prepare your child by having him pick out favorite food items that he can pack up and bring to the party.
5.    Bring along a favorite toy or stuffed animal.
Having a special item from home will help to remind him of one of his favorite places in the world and how he feels when he is there – calm, comforted, and happy.

Yes, the holidays are a stressful time. But they serve to remind us of what’s most important in our lives – love, family, and friends. The more prepared you feel, the more prepared your child will feel.  Slow down and cherish the moments and memories happening around you – your family will thank you for it.

If you’re concerned your child’s troubles with the sights and sounds of the holiday season might be Sensory Processing Disorder, click below to watch our Webinar on Sensory Processing Disorder.


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