Every holiday season families hit the malls, log on to Amazon, and fill their calendars with parties and holiday events. In the hustle and bustle of this season, Parents of children with disabilities struggle to find balance, happiness, and holiday cheer. Their children’s needs sometimes exclude them from events. Even worse, some families are not invited because others don’t want to deal with the child. Every child deserves to have a fun-filled holiday. We’ve compiled five ways to help families with children with disabilities celebrate the holidays.
Always Invite Them
If you are planning to have a party, don’t exclude families with children with special needs. Often we do cancel and can’t make it, but not getting invited to the parties hurts. More importantly, excluding our children is what bothers us the most. All children deserve to experience the magic of the season.
Too often many of us find our families on the outside looking into the family parties and events because people don’t want to deal with the needs of our children. When a child is excluded explicitly due to their disability or disease, it’s not only mean-spirited, but it’s also discriminatory. Remember that even though they might need special accommodations, they are still children and still deserve to make memories.
Be Flexible with Schedules and Locations
Many children with special needs are on specific schedules to manage a myriad of issues. Families have to juggle naps, medications, and bedtimes. Try to work with your loved one on finding a time that will work with the schedule of the child.
Consider changing the times of parties that are suitable to their needs. Additionally, be flexible with the location as it might be difficult for the family to drive a long distance with their child. Finding a place to meet in the middle is a great compromise for everyone.
Plan Smaller Events
Big parties with large amounts of people can be incredibly overwhelming for many children with disabilities. Many of these children have sensory processing issues that make noisy environments overstimulating which can lead the child to meltdown.
Consider a smaller gathering of just a few close people to celebrate with during this time. A room full of strangers, noise, and music can terrify a lot of children. Please remember that their experience does matter, and it will be how they shape their thoughts and feelings about the Holidays. Help them make pleasant memories that are filled with joy and happiness.
Purchase Developmentally Appropriate Gifts
Many children with special needs are also developmentally delayed. Just because a child is biologically ten years old does not mean they are interested or understand typical toys or games 10-year-old old. Make sure you check with their parents before purchasing them presents.
Parents will be able to give you ideas of gifts that will suit their child’s developmental age and skill. This might mean you have to buy items that are not typical. However, the child will get more benefit with a gift they can use than one that will sit on a shelf.
Plan Events that are Accessible
When a child has a physical disability, their parents will need to bring a lot of items and equipment. Consider finding locations that do not have stairs, have accessible bathrooms, and room for special equipment. There is nothing harder on a parent of a child with mobility issues than to go to a home with numerous stairs, no place for their child’s wheelchair, or no place for their child to sit safely.Having an event on a single level will enable the family to have the space they need to accommodate their child. If the location of choice isn’t accessible, rooms are available for rent at community centers, restaurants, and apartment buildings to meet these needs.
Planning for the Holidays should not have to be stressful for families. Work with the family to plan time, place, and environment that meets the needs of the child.
However, the preparation will be worth it when you see the light in the child’s eyes and see their happiness as they experience the magic of the season.
Most importantly including the family in the event will reduce the isolation they feel raising their child with special needs.
No one should be alone during the holidays. Every family deserves to have memories filled with joy and happiness. Helping children with disabilities celebrate will give them memories to last their lifetime.
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