'Tis the Season, and here come the 1,213 commitments of pure joy and utter insanity to your world. Between classroom parties, office parties, family celebrations, parties with friends, outings to meet Santa, all the shopping (though we’ve got your stocking stuffers covered for all the men in your life, all from the comfort of your own home @ www.hbombties.com), it’s enough to make you go completely bonkers. After reading my holiday calendar, I think "I must be hallucinating".
Over the years I’ve talked with many special needs families about this very issue. Their biggest obstacle is having multiple commitments in different locations on the same day, or having commitments every day, multiple days in a row. We have 20 Holiday parties in just 4 days...
Too many commitments can pose a lot of stress on many special needs families. Some special needs kids struggle with transitions, get tired more easily, and become sensorily overwhelmed traveling from party to party, day after day. It is literally too much excitement for them to process, and it leads to meltdowns and other maladaptive behaviors.
Our son often struggles with transitions. Once we have arrived at a party and he’s finally adjusted and settled, moving him 3 hours later to go to another party where he will have to readjust is just too much for him to handle. Many times there is a lack of understanding when he has to leave after such a short visit, and he becomes sensorily overwhelmed from having to visit multiple places in such a short amount of time.
After multiple days of this madness in a row, our son is exhausted and can’t process the extreme lethargic feeling he is experiencing. This often leads to meltdowns, crying, and things getting broken. Experiences like this could leave any family with an extreme loathing where the holidays are concerned. This feeling of disgust and frustration is the last thing anyone wants during the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’.
Our biggest suggestion is allow the family the option to say “No”, free of judgement, if they decide to not come to your celebration.
Special needs families feel saddened if they cannot make an event, but accommodating their child's needs must come first. These families are truly heartbroken if they cannot see you during this special time of year, but the feeling of guilt brought on by Auntie April's reaction when they send their regrets to her RSVP makes it even worse. Your empathetic understanding of the situation will go a long way in maintaining a healthy and happy relationship with this family!
Let’s Recap, allow the family the space to decline celebrations they feel are too much for their family to fit into the schedule. This space should be absent free of judgement, and no offense should be taken.