While most of us really look forward to celebrations, parties, and special days, they can be quite difficult for a person with special needs. Obviously everyone with SEN is different, but there are certain things Lottie struggles with on busy, exciting days. All it means is that we do things a little differently, or plan a bit more, to ensure she enjoys the day with us all.
Christmas is a big day for little ones at the best of times. The excitement, the change in routine, lots of people and noise, can all get a bit much. Lottie struggles with really busy, noisy, exciting situations, as many children with SEN do. She enjoys them at the time, but can get a bit overwhelmed afterwards. And it can then take her a long time (we’re talking days or even weeks) to settle again.
I want Christmas to be enjoyable for her. I don’t want the usual traditions to be forced upon her and then have to watch her stimming and banging her head, not sleeping or eating for days afterwards in a huge SEN meltdown.
So I think it’s really important for us to make things as Lottie and SEN friendly as we possibly can. Our plans for Christmas should hopefully mean she enjoys the big day. We are going to my parents’ house, so already things will be different for her, but there is lots we can do to help.
Keep some routines in place
We will try to keep mealtimes roughly the same where possible. Bedtime routine will also stay the same as usual, so that she can calm down and relax as much as possible before she goes to sleep.
Eat what you like
Lottie doesn’t eat brilliantly at the best of times. Anything new is eyed with suspicion and pushed away and she sticks to what she knows and likes. She’s never been a fan of a roast, so I won’t put one in front of her. One of my favourite dinners is a roast, so I really look forward to Christmas dinner and it makes the day extra special. By that token, Lottie always gets excited about spaghetti bolognaise, so that’s exactly what will help make her day happy.
Wear what you’re comfy in
We all tend to get dressed up to go to friends’ and family’s houses for Christmas. Lottie hates wearing things that are different to usual. She gets really uncomfortable and upset. I know she will have to wear uniform one day, and other things that she doesn’t like, but on the day that she’s meant to be the happiest, she can choose what leggings and top she wants and that’s fine by me.
Have a time out space
We’ve actually bought Lottie a little play tent for Christmas, which is going to be her little chill out zone at home. Sometimes, when it all gets too much, she hides under a blanket with her monkey toy. So we decided a tent may be a good space for her. The tent will be at mum and dad’s with her new blanket and her ‘Mo mo’ so she can have some quiet time if she needs it. Keeping Frankie out of there is my next challenge.
Drip feed the presents
When I was little, we used to open all our presents at the same time and keep going until they were all unwrapped. We’ve found from birthdays etc that this can be a bit much for Lottie, so we are opening stockings before breakfast, some presents after, some more throughout the day at my parents’ house, and if necessary, some on Boxing Day too. Hopefully then she can take it in a bit more easily without getting too overwhelmed.
My parents have enough beds for us all. We could all drink, be merry, and stay over. But we have decided to go home. I feel like if Lottie can get into her own bed and process the day, it may be easier for her to calm down again after all the excitement. There’s nothing like your own bed is there, SEN, or not.
Although this is all to make Christmas SEN friendly, the more I think about it, the more I think we should all do a bit of this. There’s nothing wrong with pizza in your PJs for Christmas lunch, is there? Make sure you just enjoy it, above all else.