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Sunday, December 20, 2009

How to have a peaceful Christmas... a last post for the year

On this day of only 5 sleeps to Christmas it is time to write my last post for the year. I thought I would make it a short and sweet list of things to do that may help you have a more peaceful Christmas if you are including a child who has special needs. Many of these were suggested to me by parents of children with conditions such as Autism.

Hints for having a peaceful, inclusive Christmas

  • An orientation:
If the child is visiting your place for the first time, it is important to give them a slow and explicit tour of the building. Pictures on closed doors indicating what the rooms are and whether they can be used can help with boundary issues.
  • A guest list:
To help children know who to expect at the gathering, you may send a guest list to parents before the day. You may even help the parent develop a photo guest list. Looking at this every day in the week before Christmas can help children be more comfortable when meeting people they may have not seen for a while.

  • A Routine or schedule:
To help children deal with the anxiety of the day, having a picture or written schedule of events might be helpful. Again, if the child becomes familiar with this before the day it could be even more effective. Here is a sample social story and some ideas from other parents.
  • A way of communicating:
Communication is such an important part of any social gathering. Not being able to communicate can produce difficult behaviour due to frustration or distress. Make sure you understand how the child communicates, and have some special tools available to help with communication. Here is a great example. It comes from this site, where you can find other free samples.

  • A plan for anxious moments:
Because of the noise and busy-ness of the day, it is likely that a child with sensory sensitivities, social or behaviour difficulties may need a quiet space to calm down. Have a room set up with toys that help calm the child - they may bring a favourite sensory toy or object from home.

Tell the parent and the child, and anyone else who you think may need to know, where the room is and when it can be used. Make it clear that the space is out of bounds to anyone except those who need time out. Oh, and think of time out as a restorative process not a punishment. You could use these symbols to help the child know when it may be time to re-join the activities.

  • Patience:
But, overall, your most valuable tool for creating peace at Christmas is patience. Children with special needs may struggle with many things on Christmas day. They may have melt-downs... or times when they become very upset and it is hard to calm them down. They may struggle with things like waiting, taking turns and may seem impolite at times. They may even hit or push their peers or adults at times because they are finding it hard to control their impulses or communicate what they need.

Understand that these are things that they may take longer to learn than their peers. See this behaviour as an opportunity for patience and learning. If you take the perspective that every behaviour has a reason behind it, then your response will be measured and supportive. It will focus on helping to stop the behaviour rather than punishing or criticising it.

Have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas... and a Happy New Year! I will return to blogging sometime in the middle of January. But for now, it is time for a rest.



Shelley December 21, 2009 at 5:21 AM  

A great post - so timely too. Have a lovely Christmas Amanda - see you in the new year.

Amanda December 21, 2009 at 11:14 AM  

Thanks, Shelley... you, too!

Jo December 24, 2009 at 9:48 AM  

A fantastic post - thanks Amanda! :o) Have a magical Christmas!

Marg December 30, 2009 at 7:39 PM  

what a great resoource this blog is. I've taught kids on the autism spectrum at different stages over the years and can see how invaluable this is.

Amanda January 7, 2010 at 11:38 PM  

Thanks so much, Marg ... a great way to start 2010.

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