Avoiding Sensory Overload During the Holidays
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so I would like to share these 6 tips to help your child with ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or Sensory Processing Disorder avoid sensory overload during the holiday excitement. The holidays often mean new people, places, and foods, all of which can be overstimulating for young kids with neuro-developmental disorders. At LLA Therapy, we want all children to enjoy the holiday season, so help your child avoid sensory-induced meltdowns with these practical strategies
Make a Schedule
Give your child a schedule of events for special activities, particularly on days with lots of transitions. Whether it’s a written schedule or one with pictures for younger kids, your child will feel calmer and safer knowing what is coming next. If you have a list of events, consider letting your child cross off events once they are complete, and discuss the schedule regularly. Provide info for each event when possible. For example, let your child know which events will take place outside and which will be loud or crowded. Sometimes just knowing what’s next can help children with behavioral and sensory issues feel less anxiety.
Create a Code Word
Choose a code word your child can use if he or she feels overwhelmed and needs a break. Assure your child if he or she uses the code word, you will respond right away. Once again, giving children some control during activities that may be overstimulating for them will reduce anxiety, and help them stay calm and organized. Knowing he or she has a way “out” is important.
Hold a Meeting
Before you leave for holiday parties, parades, or other events, have a quick family meeting so your whole family knows how long you plan to stay and how you expect them to behave. This will benefit neuro-typical children as well, since any child can get overwhelmed with the excitement of the holidays. Continue to make your child’s sleep schedule a priority, even in the midst of so many special events.
Children with significant sensory sensitives may require a little extra planning to enjoy holiday festivities. For example, you may need to bring along ear plugs or head phones if you will be in a noisy environment and sensory fidgets if the child is expected to sit still. For sensitive kids who need to wear dress clothes for events, bring along some soft clothes for them to change into as soon as possible. Consider allowing your child to bring a small back pack filled with comfort and sensory items. Be prepared by knowing your child’s specific limitations and how you will handle them if the need arises. Don’t wait for the meltdown to begin.
If your child has food sensitives or allergies that prevent him or her from eating holiday treats, plan ahead to offer alternatives like all-natural candy or a gluten-free treats from home. Children with neuro-behavioral disorders often already feel different, so be sure to include them in as many holiday festivities as possible.
If your child is easily over-stimulated, limit holiday decorations in your home. Too many twinkling lights combined with smells from the kitchen and other holidays distractions, while enjoyable to most, can be too much for children with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, or sensory disorders. When possible, allow children to help you decorate for the holidays so they are involved in the changes that take place in their environment, as well as allow them to take the lead in deciding which decorations are used.
I hope these tips help your family enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season! To learn more about LLA Therapy, contact us today!