Have you noticed increased stimulatory behavior? Increased “scripting?” Increased need for jumping, crashing, deep pressure activities? This is a normal response to the overload of sensations that come from the holiday season. Let’s dissect the Christmas tree:
1) It’s new to have a tree inside of your home vs. outside.
2) The smell of a real tree or the materials of an artificial tree….yes, the fake tree has a smell (ask your child with autism!)
3) The lights coming from the tree and bright ornaments cause the brain to process more visual input.
Then there’s the music, Santa in his bright red suit, the excitement of presents, the change in routine in school to special programs, concerts, and parties…..
Please consider that your child may need extra time to process and to complete homework and activities of daily living. Be patient and try to maintain structure as much as you can. My son’s need for a visual schedule with rewards is strong every year at Christmas. Our kids with sensory processing difficulty may not wear the fancy clothing, ties, or sweaters that we’d like for them to….that’s OK! Let them wear that seamless shirt, sweatpants, or comfy clothing if they want. Make a nice handout for your family about sensory integration issues if you need to and kindly give it out as needed. Your child will thank you for understanding and giving them a little extra patience this time of year!!
Please let us know what your child’s struggling with this holiday. We can help each other out with ideas and suggestions!!
By- Cara Koscinki MOT, OTR/L
Author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist- a handbook for caregivers of children with special needs. Questions and answers most frequently asked to OTs with easy to understand answers and fun activities you can do with your child. Order anywhere books are sold. www.pocketot.com