By: Maria Wilcox, MA, BCBA
The holiday season is a special time of year filled with celebrations, seasonal activities, social gatherings, and of course a break in the school calendar! However, it can also be overwhelming and stressful for those with disabilities due to the disruption in routine, sensory overwhelm, and unfamiliarity.
Do not let this prohibit your family from participating in activities that are appropriate, special, and memory-making for them. Here are some simple ideas in which the whole family can participate.
1. Enjoy a sensory friendly movie
Many theatre chains offer movie times that are sensory and family friendly. The lights are not dimmed, the volume is lowered, and attendees can get up, move around, talk, or even sing-a-long!
Theatre not your thing? Have a family movie night with popcorn, snacks, and a family favorite film. Some favorites are Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Polar Express.
2. Visit your local public library
Libraries often host a variety of holiday themed activities for children of all ages. They are quieter environments for children who may be easily overwhelmed. Things like story hour, Lego clubs, daytime movies, puppet shows, or even just going to look at books in the children’s section are great ways to get out of the house and do something fun as a family.
3. Pick and choose what you attend
Invited to a large holiday gathering? Many families opt out of large parties and events because of past experiences or unfamiliarity and unpredictability. Instead, you could invite a small group to your home so that your child has a safe place and familiar environment should she/he become overwhelmed.
4. Decorate cookie, do an easy craft, or play outside
Sometimes being home with family during the holidays is enough. As lives grow increasingly busier, simple activities with those closest to you can be the most special.
Buying cookies and decorating them festively, making a winter themed craft, or building a snowman can be great ways for siblings to interact and keep stress levels low in a familiar environment.
5. Visit your local zoo or a new museum
Zoo’s often have holiday lights and decorations for the season. They are less crowded and very family friendly early in the day. There are often photo opportunities and interactive activities for children of all abilities.
Museums also have great hours for families to visit and have many activities that are engaging and target lots of different ages and abilities. Train museums, local history museums, and living history museums are all great options for families to gather together for structured fun.
The holidays are a special time to spend with loved ones, friends, and family. By keeping expectations realistic, planning simple and fun activities the season can be enjoyable and memorable for the entire family! Happy Holidays!