The holiday season sometimes can require a little bit more planning when you have a child with special needs.  Our son, Noah, adores Christmas and all that comes with it. These are some tips that are great to keep in mind as you think how can you make the holidays both comfortable and wonderful for your child with special needs.

But, it still is very challenging for him to participate in activities as easily as other typical children can. 

At almost age five, with a diagnosis of spastic cerebral palsy, Noah is unable to sit, walk, talk, crawl or self-feed, but he remains very aware of the holiday season and is just as excited to see Santa as any other child is.  

The key for us has been to find ways of incorporating Noah into all the activities that we can and adapting the holidays to meet his physical and sensory needs. 

These are some tips that are great to keep in mind as you think how can you make the holidays both comfortable and wonderful for your child with special needs.

Tip #1) Remember things don't have to be "perfect" to be wonderful.

The less pressure you put on yourself to have decorate the halls to perfection all the while caring for your little blessing the less stress you'll feel.

Tip #2) Respecting your child's boundaries.

You may want to go to the nutcracker or out to a Christmas festival or parade but your child's sensory issues just can't handle it.

Don't feel disappointed, just fill that void with an activity that your child enjoys and spark a new holiday family tradition.

Tip #3) Keep in mind what can overwhelm your child.

Maybe that loud Christmas fish stocking that Uncle John got last year should not go on the mantle... ever!

Likewise some scents can set kids off, think whether a real pine tree or a vanilla-peppermint votive candle is making your little blessing want to climb the walls and scream...

Tip# 4) Let your child be the guide.

You can find so much freedom in following the lead of your little blessing. Let them tell you how much they can handle, and if they've simply had enough of Christmas festivities.

Don't push, be understanding and supportive. This goes for non-verbal children too; they're smart, follow their cues when they've signaled they've had enough.

Tip #5) Make an effort to include your special needs child in all the activities you can.

It's okay if you have one in a stander smearing sugar cookie dough, or a holiday card that is unreadable, or an ornament that they create that it is unrecognizable.

Treat each event as a masterpiece - a holiday accomplishment to remember for years to come.

Tip #6)  Christmas shopping with your child with special needs in tow can take the fun out of festivities. 

Do as much online shopping as possible.  Amazon.com will become one of your best friends during the holiday season.  And if you are able to find FREE gift wrapping jump on it!

Tip#7)  Down size where you can. 

Send Christmas cards only to close relatives and friends.  Your boss, his secretary, the person who delivers your mail... they'll likely never miss it if you skip a card. 

Re-evaluate your holiday priorities.  Consider sending a mass email filled with warm holiday wishes to cut down on one more thing to accomplish.

Tip #8) The idea of standing in line to sit on Santa's lap in the middle of a crowded mall is enough to make your child shut down and start throwing up. 

Consider searching out a Sensitive Santa in your local area that will either do private home visits or designates a small venue to help children with sensory processing difficulties be able to sit on Santa's lap and express their Christmas wishes.   

Tip #9)  Every parent dreams of their child dressed up in the most precious Christmas outfit for that perfect holiday photo. 

Photography studios, or photography stations in a Santa’s cottage could freak out your child with special needs. 

Little kids with snotty noses wiping their hands on the toy props your child is about to touch next... consider finding a photographer that will come to your home. 

This will help ease the difficulties your child has with waiting and protect your medically fragile child from unnecessary germs.

Tip #10)  Be gentle with yourself. 

Understand that it is perfectly okay if you are unable to attend a regular church service or mass, go to a Christmas party with your family, or attend a holiday parade.   There are so many great alternatives if you feel that you are missing out. 

Many churches now have online attendance with webcams, your friends and family will understand if you have to decline a party invitation, and parades are best watched on television in the comfort of your own home under a warm blanket with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. 

Invite your family to come to your home for Christmas and if your child has too many sensory issues to a large group of people, ask them if the wouldn't mind coming in little intermittent times to drop off gifts and visit with your little blessing.

Some might think that extra care and planning could bring the holidays down, but you'll quickly find that starting new traditions, or allowing your child with special needs to take the lead on holiday festivities will bring you tremendously closer as a family and it will fill your holiday with an abundance of love and more beautiful memories than you could ever imagine. 

May the good times and treasures of the present become the golden memories of tomorrow. Wishes for a loving and joyful holiday full of happiness.

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