The winter months offer many opportunities for families to participate in holiday traditions and events that may be more challenging for children with developmental or physical disabilities, chronic health conditions, or other special needs.
Sometimes our children are satisfied with the roles they play in the classroom as well as in family events, but we as parents want to implement creative ideas even as we struggle with a strong protective instinct. A great way to find a middle ground is to bring classmates, siblings and cousins into brainstorming sessions - or just to pose a simple question about what they want to do to help accommodate a child's special needs.
The very best resource to work out options is the individual whose preferences are more important than the best idea or plan we can make. Children with disabilities may decide they will be serving others rather than being served by others during the season of giving and sharing. They may wish to share experiences with one peer or relative rather than become involved in a complicated or difficult series of events.
Our children may appreciate sitting on a bench drinking hot cocoa out of a thermos as much as being in the middle of a crowd watching Christmas ships or holiday pageants. Sometimes we underestimate the enjoyment a child feels being with one parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle because we assume that they prefer the company of an overstimulated, noisy crowd of peers.
During the holidays, the most enjoyable part of a family tradition or community event may be traveling in a car together to the location, and home again; or short stops along the way for a snack or short visit while picking up and dropping off riders.
While it's always wonderful to fit in a few fabulous photo opportunities or memorable extravagances, planning for the best possible experience on the way may be the most fun our sons and daughters to remember.
When I think of how much trouble my mother took to dress up her daughters and bring us to places that she thought we would remember for our entire lifetimes, I wish sometimes that I could recall those places as well as I remember her laughing over our misadventures on the way. There are always more things to keep in mind and plan out when we are showing our sons and daughters with special needs a good time, or putting them firmly at the center of a family tradition or community event. I hope we all remember to laugh, as my mother did, when her best plans suffered the impact of the unexpected.
Browse at your local library, bookstore, or online retailer for books like 101+ Holiday Tips and Ideas that will Make Your Holiday's Simple and Fun: Finally have a Stress Free and Fun Holiday Season or Christmas Crafting With Kids: 35 Projects for the Festive Season.