Holidays and Special Needs
I know it’s cliche, but family gatherings are special. This year will be my 11th Thanksgiving in the USA. Hey, what Aussie in their right mind would turn down a ridiculously huge amount of meat, vegetables and dessert followed up by untamed laughter and then a nap?
We have the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving at our home. It’s a squeeze, but we make it work. This year we are planning for about 23 people. Here is a picture of how it worked out last year.
As you can see, there are people literally everywhere. Last Thanksgiving was the first time that I became more acutely aware of Jack’s heightened sensitivity to over stimulation…ie Lots of people and noise.
I wish there was a magic wand I could wave, a set of headphones that would stay on his head or even an ipad with endless batteries that would prevent Jack from becoming over stimulated. Jack is 6 years old and at this point he still struggles in large groups, and yet we really want Jack to be involved in the festivities and not become over-stimulated and shut down.
How do you avert this? Our family has naturally assumed a couple of different tactics that I want to share with you in the lead up to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah.
First, our extended family understands that Jack becomes over stimulated quickly. This takes a lot of pressure off me (the turkey chef) to keep an eye on him. Jack’s aunties, uncles and grandparents know that if Jack starts to react instead of responding that he needs a quieter environment and they take it upon themselves to assist him. Make sure that you have an open conversation with your extended family…I am confident that they will probably appreciate the insight for your child and it will help them show greater and more meaningful love toward your child.
Second, we all know when Jack has reached the pinnacle of what he can handle, our inside terminology is “He’s done!”. Hey, we are a loud family … and the laughs can burst out as loud as a fireworks finale at times. It’s these times that are special about getting family together and it would not be respectful to hinder these times for everyone else just because Jack is over stimulated. It’s in these times that IF Jack is “done” that we will take him to his reading nook where he has close walls to reassure him of spatial safety and security and allow him to either read a book or watch a movie. Keeping him in the loud environment will only make him feel worse. We give him some time and once the loudness subsides we will see him re-enter on his own accord.
Remember, even though our kids may not be able to verbally communicate, they still have wants and desires. This means that they may want to stay and be involved or not. It’s our job as parents to do our best to learn what they are telling us.
I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. They are great holidays to celebrate the goodness of the Lord toward men.
If you have any other suggestions or tricks you use at holidays with your child please let me know.