Guest post by Emma from Netbuddy. Next year Netbuddy will be joining Scope.
The festive season can be a stressful time, especially if someone in your family has learning difficulties or autism. So, to help you put the fun back into Christmas, we’ve pulled together these tips from parents and carers. Download all the tips in a PDF (731KB).
1. A few of my favourite things – Wrap up some old favourite toys as Christmas presents if your child is not keen on opening presents as they have new and unfamiliar things in them. You can secretly hide some favourite things in the weeks leading up to Christmas – sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring!
2. Use foil – Foil is an excellent wrapping paper. It is very sensory and makes for an easy to open present!
3. Ribbon for wrapping paper – Instead of using wrapping paper, I wrapped a present in a piece of material and tied with a ribbon. Once the ribbon was in person’s hand she pulled and hey presto, she had unwrapped it herself!
4. Decorations outside of the house – If your child can’t cope with decorations being on the outside of the house, try telling them that the house is getting dressed up for Christmas!
5. A sensory tree – We have sensory items on our Christmas tree. Different textures, smells and things that make sounds – so the little girl I look after with a visual impairment can enjoy it too!
6. Preparing for a crowded house – I’ve started to prepare my son for a crowded house at Christmas by inviting his friends around for Sunday Club and making a party for the family to have dinner or a disco. Announce visitors on your child’s visual timetable. Allow quiet time if he/she needs to step out.
7. Talk to family members – Talk to family members ahead of time. Discuss your child’s specific needs, and gently but firmly tell them what your plans are. Be sure to let them know that this will make the whole experience better for everyone. Ask for their support.
8. Prepare a calm place – I used to worry about Dan’s behaviour when spending time at family member’s homes over the festive season. Basically, I’d take him and hope for the best! However, I’ve found that planning and preparation in advance hugely helps. I work with my family and we make sure we have a calm room or a space he can go to for when it all gets too much. I put his favourite blanket in there. Having some time alone, or just with me keeps meltdowns to a minimum.
9. Spread out the presents – Don’t feel that all the presents have to be opened on Christmas morning in the traditional way. Our son would get so overwhelmed he couldn’t cope so it was much easier to allow him a few gifts at a time throughout Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He opened them all in the end without any tantrums and was much calmer and happier, meaning we all had a far more enjoyable time!
10. Stay Calm! – If your child reacts badly to stress, staying relaxed and low-key over the Christmas period is one of the best things you can do to keep your child’s behavior in line. Save the tantrum (yours) for when you get home.
What are your top tips for Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.