Tips for Making the Holidays Happy for Everyone
The holiday season is one of the most exciting and fun-filled times of the year, but not everyone looks forward to this season of joy.
Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years and all that goes with them – the decorations, music, crowds and noise – present special challenges for some people with disabilities and those who love and care for them.
Children and adults with autism may feel especially overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds and experience sensory overload. People with physical disabilities may be challenged by shopping and traveling. With a little planning ahead, some of this discomfort and anxiety can be avoided so everyone can enjoy the holidays.
Shopping for gifts can be fun or it can be an ordeal.
If you have a physical disability, plan your shopping trip at stores or a mall that is disability accessible and has a variety of restaurants where you might shop and eat out. Shop during off-times and plan to buy heavier gifts last, so you don’t have to carry them around. Or, make yourself some tea or cocoa and shop online.
Christmas trees are an important part of the holiday celebration.
If you are unable to shop or pick up a tree, some garden centers may deliver an appropriately sized tree. Invite friends to help you decorate. If you or a family member has allergies, consider purchasing an artificial tree. Another alternative is setting up your Christmas tree just before Christmas and taking it down soon after.
Unwrapping gifts can be a challenging for some.
Wrap presents for children and adults with disabilities loosely or use bags and boxes where appropriate. If giving an item that requires assembly, assemble the gift first. If buying toys, make sure they are both age and ability appropriate.
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Discuss the holiday schedule and plan ahead.
Talk to a child or adult with disabilities about where you will be going, who you will be visiting and when. Explain the day’s activities and traditions so they know what to expect. If entertaining at home, give them a task like taking coats or passing hors d’oeuvres.
If everyone in your family is meeting at one home, make sure it is accessible for a family member or friend with a physical disability.
Consider renting a wheelchair or walker if it would be helpful. Let family and friends know that a person with disabilities will be there and explain their special needs. Keep in mind that some people are sensitive to smells or have food allergies when planning holiday menus. Ask family members and guests to limit or eliminate perfume. Make sure there is a calm room or place where a disabled person can retreat if they become anxious. If visiting someone else’s home, bring favorite items to enjoy.
For parents of children with autism or intellectual difficulties, the holidays can be especially stressful.
Try to stick with their normal routine as much as possible for sleeping, eating, play and school work. Limit decorations and create a “Christmas free” zone in your home without decorations. Introduce new smells such as cinnamon and pine gradually. Unwrapping a lot of gifts can make an autistic child anxious. Leave some gifts unwrapped or wrap a favorite toy; unwrapping a familiar item can be very soothing. Don’t forget to make special time for your children who do not have a disability to enjoy activities your disabled child does not so they do not miss holiday fun.
Above all, let go of expectations.
Even people without disabilities can find planning a perfect holiday exhausting. Enjoy family and friends and know that doing your best is more than good enough.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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