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Christmas is an exciting and happy time of year for most people, however it can be an overwhelming time of year, and even more so if your child has sensory processing difficulties. The sights, smells and sounds associated with the festive season can send children with these difficulties into a meltdown in minutes. Here’s a few tips that will help reduce the stress this year and ensure your child can still have fun and enjoy themselves.
- Plan your shopping trips – having a child with SPD doesn’t mean to say you have to avoid shops all together, but there are ways to minimise the stress for your child (and for you)! Try and shop at the least busy times – many children with SPD may have over-responsive tactile systems, meaning that they over react to touch and can therefore find large crowds very difficult to cope with. Some big stores have started to offer disability friendly opening hours – check online and see if any of your local stores are offering this. If you do need to take your child shopping, try and keep trips short and build in regular breaks.
- Purchase some ear defenders or headphones – this will at least reduce the auditory input your child is receiving from the environment.
- The festive seasons is typically a time of year that families get together and you might have more visitors to your home over the holidays. Children who struggle to cope with change may find this overwhelming. Don’t expect too much from them, allow them to take some time out away from the hustle and bustle if they need it.
- Try and keep a structure/routine in the home (this can be difficult at this time of year). There may be less structure in your child’s school routine during the final build up to christmas, with christmas play rehearsals etc. Consistency at home is key in trying to keep a sense of normality for your child.
- Wear a weighted blanket, vest or lap pad to provide extra proprioceptive input. This will cause the release of both serotonin and dopamine (happy neurotransmitters) that can help produce a feeling of calm in your child’s nervous system and help keep them in a regulated state.
As children with sensory processing difficulties have difficulty with self regulation, they often rely on those around them to achieve a regulated state. By being aware of the impact the environment can have on your child, and implementing these effective strategies, Christmas can be enjoyed by everyone!
Written by Heather Hill,