Including children with special needs in the holiday fun

Including children with special needs in the holiday fun

The holidays and new year are an exciting time usually filled with fun and laughter. It is a great time to include your special needs child in the festivities so they can enjoy themselves during this period. While the holidays are a festive period, not everyone is happy, with many people even falling into loneliness and depression.

It is important to keep this in mind, to not take it for granted that everyone will automatically enjoy themselves. This is especially true  for special needs children as they tend to be quite sensitive to changing routines and rapidly changing environmental stimuli. While we might see festive lights, sounds, smells, colours, and noises, a special needs child may see this as something overwhelming. Especially the amount of people that the child may encounter may be excessive and trigger a panic.

While this period can be chaotic, it can still be made enjoyable.

Tame the unpredictable into a routine

We recommend trying to pre-empt your child in advance of the holiday. Create lists and show children in advance the fun things that are coming next week and subsequent weeks. Make the planning of these holiday activities an event that the children are a part of. There are various ways you can do this but having the child make a physical activity list with you will help pre-empt the events for them. Give them tasks in preparation of each event. The list can then be posted up somewhere accessible and be referenced every day in preparation.

If you sit down and create a calendar of events with your special needs child, they can be involved in the planning. By the time these events and activities come around, they aren’t sudden and disruptive, but expected and the child will be able to enjoy the activity rather than be stressed.

Designate specific days for certain activities, and talk through what is going to happen on those days. If you are planning to take the child shopping, you should start slowly and work your way up over several days. Jumping straight into a full holiday crowd would likely be too much for the child to handle, so plan accordingly and ensure your activities and plans can account for the crowd that they can comfortably accept.

If you are planning on decorating a tree, plan it with the child in advance, and have all the materials ready. Remember that holiday activities, although fun, can also be stressful and trigger arguments, so the better you plan, the more relaxed and ready you can be to carry out your decoration.

If you plan to have people over, talk to the child about this so they know who is coming and what to expect on certain days.

As the calendar of events come around, mark them off with your child so you both know what to expect. In this way, you can create a routine that makes the chaos of the holidays more predictable and manageable for your child.

College of Allied Educators offers our Diploma in Education (Special Needs), that provides an essential introduction to the various categories of exceptional children and educational programmes available. The course will also train you to confidently design and implement an Individualised Education Plan or IEP to aid in specific areas such as language and communications.

This is a 6-month, part-time programme that will allow you to continue onto the Advanced Diploma in Special Education, a 12-month course that trains educators and parents in the identification, diagnosis and treatment of these needs and the basic principles and practices of effective teaching and learning. The programme is highly practice-oriented to ensure that what you learn in class can be applied to children with special needs under your charge.


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