Prepping for the Holidays

February 5, 2022

From Avoiding to Savoring the Holiday Season for Loved Ones with Special Needs

Ever dread social gatherings during the season for your loved ones with special needs?  
Instead of avoiding events, what if you could transition to enjoying the holiday season by having a plan in place, practicing the ideas in smaller settings and helping your special needs loved ones feel more confident in social gatherings.

The Plan:

Just as every individual is unique, these strategies need to be chosen to fit the needs of your loved one.  The goal is to create a list of situations that you’ve noticed your loved one struggles through during social events.  Once you have a list of examples written out, it will be easier to recreate some of the examples for practicing the scenarios.  

1- Calendar/Schedule

Having a calendar unique to his or her schedule is best.  If you need to share a calendar with another family member make sure to highlight or make sure the loved one with special needs schedule is set apart unique for him or her.  So that, he or she can easily look at the calendar and see what is coming up for that day and week.

List out the time and item or event for the entire week or month.  If your loved one needs details laid out week by week or listed for the month, I encourage you to flex and do what is best for him or her.

Some days may have so many items or events in a day where a daily calendar may be needed.  If this occurs make sure to add in space for down time between events.  Sometimes being late or leaving early will be a helpful addition to the schedule incorporating down time.  Reminder, for busy days, list out times and items or events in order and add in breaks.

2.  What do I say?

In seasonal event gatherings, outside the normal routine, practicing words to use for basic conversation is helpful.  

Example: What do you say when the relative asks, “How have you been?”

Listing out routine conversation questions and creating simple responses that your loved one with special needs can use is a helpful tool for smoother transitions into a gathering.  

Example Response: “I have been well, thank you.”  Or “I have been good, and you?”  

Once a list with questions and responses have been created, the most important part is practice.  Role play and practice using the questions and responses.

Another tool would be to share the list of questions with the family and friends who will attend, so they can join in with helping him or her feel at ease.  This idea may or may not be possible for every event.  It could help to find at-least one person who has these questions when possible.

3. Breaks and Downtime

We all need downtime and breaks, but family and friends with special needs will need this built into the schedule for events especially long, crowded events.  

Make sure a plan is in place to give a break every 30-45 minutes for each social gathering.  
Breaks could be as simple as, a walk outside or a few minutes in a different room with someone they know well.  

The plan you design may not work perfectly, and it may not work for every event or social gathering.  However, making sure your friends and family with special needs are getting breathing room to regroup and take deep breaths is important to help him or her succeed in a social gathering.

Savoring the holidays rather than avoiding and dreading them is a desire we all have.  

You are not alone in your journey growing with a loved one with special needs.  

If you are looking for more specific ideas, feel free to reach out to us at Randy and Friends Inc.  We have a staff that would love to help.

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