As I write this I am looking at a big pile of Halloween candy.
Michael had himself a huge ball of fun on this holiday and Elizabeth, his sister decided this was the year she would “relax” and watch a movie instead of passing out treats with me. I was fine with that because the weather in our world was pretty awful for this fun night.
For me, in Ohio, we go to bed on October 31st and think….Ah, fall is so nice.
And we wake up on November 1st thinking…Wow, it is the holiday time already!
And the truth is we do sort of move the focus from candy and costumes to holiday music and early-black-Friday specials. And somewhere in there falls the often underrepresented holiday of Thanksgiving.
But the thing is, this holiday itself and the prep for it can be work and stress. For anyone and especially for those with special needs. It is like this holiday is the reminder that we are at the beginning of the time of year when schedules change, situations are less controlled, challenges arise, and overloads are likely. I don’t think that Thanksgiving itself is the culprit, it is just that it is kind of like the checkered flag that introduces the busiest time of year.
So how do you help your child and let’s face it, yourself cope?
I think for me it has always been that I literally force myself to look the holiday in the eye early.
I ask myself the “W” questions of the holiday… you know the where, when, what and who.
Where is the holiday going to be held this year?
What time of day?
What kind of food will they be serving?
Who will be there? As in will it be a small gathering or an open house kind of thing?
Getting some answers to these questions helps me make a sort of plan for the holiday. It also helps me get an idea of the things we will need to do and bring to help the day be a success for Elizabeth. Last year we had Thanksgiving at our house and had 23 people over. It was amazing, busy, fun and wonderful. It was also a bit overwhelming for Elizabeth, who did well, but who verbalized the need for a break after she had eaten. And because we had talked things over before, we had made plans for her to watch a movie at a nearby friend’s house to “relax.”
I did mention the talking part in the above paragraph and that to me, is so very important. Once you have a general idea of the holiday plans. I advise talking if possible or use whatever form of communication works best for your child to start communicating about the upcoming holiday. In my opinion, talking and planning helps them to not only prepare for the holiday but to perhaps, add the requests for certain foods, music, sensory toys etc. to be part of the packing and day. For us, Elizabeth likes to know things in advance. She puts it on her schedule and we talk about it often. It allows her to feel a sense of control.
And truthfully, having a “Plan B” is so important. When Elizabeth was younger, her sensory issues were so great. So much so, that even doing all the above did not at all guarantee success. Sometimes she was just overloaded and other times the change in her routine proved too much for her and she was inconsolable. We had to go to “Plan B.” Maybe a walk around the block, some quiet time in a room alone, maybe music or even having to head back home. Just knowing you have the safety net of a “Plan B” in my opinion, helps.
The thing is, sometimes this is not always well understood by those with us including some family members. So I think another good thing to do is to tell those around you about what you will do if your child needs this plan. I know we did not always do that and we had to not only handle Elizabeth but then explain the situation to those who did not know her needs. I guess what I am saying is communicate, that really is the best way to put it. Trust me, I have done the leg work on this one!
Take the good of the day! Celebrate the successes small and big and make the memories that you can tuck into your heart!
I wish everyone a good month!
Happy Thanksgiving! Here is to a calm, peaceful holiday!!!
Michele Gianetti author of:
I Believe in You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey
Elizabeth Believes in Herself: The Special Journey Continues