Below are some helpful tips: Talk to your Child Expectations make a difference for everyone. It is important to talk to your child, depending on his/her age, about what to expect. Let your child know that the noise level will be loud, and there may be a lot of people. Use visuals and social stories to explain, as visuals provide extra support and increase understanding. If your child expects the environment, it may help reduce the element of surprise which, in turn, may reduce stress level Plan for “Noise Breaks” As the caregiver, seek out quiet areas that your child can go to for a “noise break”. We all need that break sometimes, but children with sensory challenges will need this more frequently. If the holiday party is at your house, let him/her know that it is okay to remain in a quiet room for a little while. If the holiday party is at someone else’s, find a quieter space to intermittently practice deep breathing and other calming strategies. If noise levels are unavoidable, it is also recommended to look into noise cancelling headphones/earphones Plan for Seating Arrangement It is recommended to strategize about best possible seating arrangements for your child, to reduce overall sensory stimulation. For example, corner seats at the dinner table may be better than sitting in the middle of a crowded table, as your child can have easier access to remove himself/herself, as needed. Additionally, if he/she is sensitive to touch, there is less likelihood to be brushed up against Be Flexible about Social Interaction Instead of greeting family members/friends with physical touch (e.g., handshakes, hugs, high fives), let your child know that it’s okay to provide a greeting via a simple wave or blowing a kiss. With all of the extra sensory stimulation due to the holidays, it is important to reduce pressure of social engagement and physical acts of affection. Bring Comfort Items If the holiday party is outside of the home, bringing a comfort item (e.g., blanket, favorite toy) can significantly reduce feelings of stress. Being in an unfamiliar environment can be extra difficult for children with sensory challenges; however, bringing a comfort item is noted to be calming due to the positive associations and familiarity of it.
It is so exciting that this holiday season is approaching, especially since the world has acquired more resources and information on how to protect our health. We hope these tips help your child feel calm and more regulated during these special times.
The family at Exceptional Speech Therapy wishes you a very happy, safe, and healthy holiday season!
Written by: Andrea Scola, M.S. CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist & Exceptional Speech Therapy Blog Writer