Special Children, Special Stress: Special Holiday Tips by Robert Naseef, Ph.D.

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Children with special needs such as autism and other conditions can be extremely loveable and endearing and yet simultaneously hard to hang out with—especially at holiday time. While many people find the holidays stressful, there is a special twist for families who have children with special needs. The frequent behavioral challenges can make for gritty and unwelcome moments. By knowing what is realistic to expect and being prepared with coping strategies, families can sidestep many problems and enjoy their time together as much as possible.

On Wednesday, November 13, I recorded a conversation with Jennifer Lingle, M.Ed., founder and president of the International Autism Association for Families and Educators. Jennifer is a compassionate and experienced teacher, and she has made this recording available as a free download at http://www.autismeducates.com/getting-through-the-holidays-recording/

Our conversation covered these questions among others:

What can I do to prepare my son and my family for Thanksgiving?  I am really nervous about our 3 year old son's behavior (and our family's reaction to him). 

Last year, our six year old daughter with autism kept taking the ornaments off our Christmas tree.  What can we do so that we can enjoy decorating our home, while still respecting her needs?

We have three boys and two are on the autism spectrum.  I often feel bad for our other son. It seems that all of the attention goes to the other two, no matter how hard we try to give them all attention.  Do you have any recommendations?

I am a father of a 7 year old boy with Asperger's.  His mother and I are divorced and this is our first holiday season separated.  I am trying my best to make our home cozy and comfortable for my son. How can I and my ex-wife make this transition easier?

Listen in and see what may help your family. Keep in mind that holiday time is exciting for children, and children with special needs are no different.  In answer to a common question, for help in picking out toys, check out the “Top Ten Things to Consider When Buying Toys for Children with Disabilities” http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content3/toys.disabilities.html   

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To wrap it up, understanding each child's individual characteristics is the key to enjoying the holidays. As opposed to wishing and pushing for “normal” holidays, understanding and accepting your unique child, is the best way to plan and enjoy your time together. An important lesson that all children can teach us is that parents’ time and attention is exciting and wonderful. Try not to get caught up in the consumer oriented rush. Connect with family and friends and all whose lives we touch.  Let’s enjoy our time together.