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Handling Holiday Traditions

With the season of giving and social gatherings upon us, it is easy to feel a sense of dread instead of the joy that all of the Hallmark specials proclaim should be our instant reaction. Family gatherings may equal nothing more than dysfunction for some. How do we handle the inappropriate conversations between Cousin Jake and Aunt Melinda? What if Grandma Sue starts to get lippy after her second glass of wine? What if your husband starts in on his political views which are so polar opposite of your father’s viewpoints? When do we get to leave? Yikes!! The celebrations may not have started and the flood gates of “what ifs” open up. Why am I so stressed when this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”?
Add to that the fact that you are bringing your pride and joy, who comes armed and dangerous to the party with his or her special needs resulting from Autism, Cerebral Palsy, or maybe a seizure disorder.  Will the cast of characters present at Christmas dinner be able to handle outbursts, fixations, or the dreaded grand mal that may result unexpectedly? These situations are glaring for many families and cause them to create traditions of their own to bypass negative situations. Personally, I think the key to getting through the holidays in one piece is to embrace your threshold for what you can and can’t handle this time of year.
Consider the following questions as your family’s traditions are being planned this year.

Is it ok if you attend functions for part of the time and not the entire event?

If you are honest about your situation with your family, maybe it will cut down on the stress that you have experienced during past years. Grandma Jackie may need to hear from you personally that little Jimmy can’t handle more than 30 minutes away from home. If long distance is a factor, can you gather on days other than “the big day” to spend time with loved ones? Can you see family and friends in small increments throughout the month of December or even January to cut down on chaos that you foresee happening?

Is it easier to hold events at your house instead of travelling to other people’s houses?

Holding Christmas dinner at your house can be expensive and stressful for some families. For myself, I enjoy cooking and having access to my children’s toys and bedrooms during the most exhausting day of the year for them…and for me!  For others, cooking may be the dreaded part. If this is the case, can people bring side dishes to your house? Can you hold parties during different times when you know your children will be at their best? Sometimes dinners can be late for children and this is especially the case if they have disabilities. Is a better option to plan for a brunch or lunch to accommodate the needs of your family?

Sometimes the easiest tradition is to not have traditions.

If you are a family that experiences the unexpected constantly, then be realistic. Communicate to your friends and family that you don’t know what this holiday season will bring for your family planning. If little Sally has medical issues, you need to attend to those issues and let your extended family know that she is your priority. Use technology to connect loved ones to each other. If the season is about loving and caring for each other, those that hold that theme will understand and embrace what you need. If they are not able to do this, surround yourself with people who can.

Take a fresh approach to the holiday season.

            For your child with special needs, it is important to think about what they are able to handle. As a parent, you may have always dreamt of watching them interact with Santa. You may have gotten yourself overly excited about dressing them up and taking them to the Children’s Christmas mass. Whatever your initial thoughts may have been, it is ok if you can’t fulfill these dreams. Honest!!  Just breathe and know that it is ok to do the best you can do. Take those initial dreams and recreate them. There are no medals and there is no defeat if you create your own celebrations to accommodate your family members. That, to me, defines a successful family. Place the needs of your family BEFORE the “needs” that others expect from you and your loved ones.
Over the past few years, I have learned that spending time with my immediate family is more important to me than attending events such as the Polar Express or downtown Christmas parades. I have also learned that Christmas religious events may be meant for me to attend without my children. The God that I believe in understands if they are not in attendance. I have learned to say “no thank you” and I have learned to know when I can’t be in attendance for events. What I have gained through recreating my family traditions have been terrific memories.
It is how you define your family’s traditions that will ultimately help you eliminate unnecessary stress that creeps up this time of year. It is amazing when you start to realize that you have the power to truly make it the most wonderful time of the year.
Wishing you all the joy and love of the season,


*Beth Lattime, M. Ed. is a developmental specialist and intervention specialist. Her professional experiences span over classroom, clinical, home-based, and recreational environments. She can now proudly add her own natural environments to her list of experiences. Ethan was diagnosed with Infantile Spasms in 2012 which is a rare type of epilepsy and had a former diagnosis of dysphasia. He is currently undergoing intensive therapies at LLA for apraxia and deficits in the arenas of physical and occupational therapy as well. For more on Beth’s story, visit
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Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
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