3 min Read

Tips for Families with Special Needs

It’s a strange one, Mr. Grinch.

Christmas of 2020 may not be the way we want it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it great! The ongoing pandemic means British Columbia now has new social distancing rules in place, including wearing masks in indoor public places, and numerous outdoor holiday events have been canceled. Gone are holiday parties and get-togethers. The chance of seeing extended family is looking very slim. In spite of a vaccine on the horizon, we still have many months to get through, and we will.

Families with members who have developmental disabilities have the understanding that they need to ensure their loved ones understand why Christmas feels a little different this year. Many have already adjusted to a fluid school year, and the notion that they can’t see their friends or teachers’ aides like they used to. So hopefully for everyone, the sting has started to ebb even just a little.

Things to make the holidays special in 2020:

The big thing this year is staying connected:

  • Utilize any means necessary to stay connected to loved ones no matter where they are. If there is one blessing in the digital age, being able to see and hear family a country away is it. Zoom it up big time! You could even trim the tree and deck the halls together, virtually. This can help with feelings of consistency for those family members with developmental disabilities where routine and expectation is good.
  • Put together a schedule of fun events the whole family can take part in. Talk about each event a lot in advance and show your loved ones pictures of what the idea is all about.
    • Decorate the tree
    • Bake and decorate Christmas cookies
    • Scheduled family Zoom gatherings
    • An evening of holiday music
    • Making Christmas dinner
  • For families with kids with ASD, decorating can be an overstimulating affair. Many families opt to put up the tree much closer to the day so the bright, shiny lights and decorations aren’t around for so long.
  • In general, minimizing stimuli around the holidays isn’t a bad idea.
  • If your kids really like to decorate, let them plan it all!
  • If your family likes to attend Christmas Mass or other religious event, seek out online substitutes as most religious gatherings in B.C. have been canceled for the time being.
  • Celebrate the big day early. Youth with autism (as well as other neurodiverse demographics) do better in the morning than later in the day when they are tired. Fortunately for most, the big day DOES start early.
  • The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone for many reasons. Let’s all do our best to keep expectations low this year and try not to let the little things become big things. Kids of all types pick up on the stress of their parents. This is a great time to teach them how to manage anxieties.