How to Avoid Holiday Meltdowns with Special Needs Kids

The following is reprinted from the Brain Balance newsletter and website. It includes valuable information for helping kids with special needs navigate the holidays.

(Originally published by Brain Balance on Nov 14, 2012 07:58 am | Brain Balance Centers).

While the words “stress-free” and “the holidays” don’t often go together, all of us at Brain Balance Achievement Centers want kids to enjoy this special time of year without meltdowns. The following tips and strategies can help everyone enjoy this busy and often overwhelming season… especially those with neuro-behavioral disorders like ADHD and Asperger Syndrome. Try these strategies and help every member of your family enjoy this wonderful time of year!

1. 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 up. Discuss the schedule regularly and provide info for each event. 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.

2. Have 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. Again, giving children some control during activities that may be overstimulating for them will reduce anxiety, and help them stay calm and organized.

3. Before you leave for holiday parties, parades, or other fun 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.

4. 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 if you will be in a noisy environment or 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. 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.

5. If your children have food sensitives or allergies that prevent them from eating holiday treats, plan ahead to offer alternatives like all-natural candy or a gluten-free treat from home. Children with neuro-behavioral disorders often already feel different, so be sure to include them in as many holiday festivities as possible.

6. 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. Allow children to help you decorate for the holidays so they are involved in the changes that take place in their comforting environment.

The holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year for your child with a learning or behavioral disorder! We hope these tips help your whole family enjoy this fun time of year.

Want to know more about how Brain Balance helps children with neuro-behavioral disorders reach their physical, social, and emotional potential? Contact [Brain Balance]  today!

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