National Center for Learning Disabilities

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Preparing for Special Holiday Events

Disabilities In Children – Disabled Children Ben Franklin said "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," and we all know how applicable this advice is during the holiday season. Special events or changes in schedules and routines can be exciting, but can also be disruptive and stressful. This is especially true for children with learning disabilities (LD) for whom structure and pre-planning is often a key to success. Some families might consider limiting their participation in social activities or even withdrawing from these activities altogether to avoid this stress. However, with careful planning and creativity, it is possible to help children with LD make the most of holiday traditions and cherished family events.

Preparation is the key to success, and for the family of a child with learning disabilities, preparation means more than defrosting turkeys and greasing pie pans — it means trying to experience the holiday season through the child's eyes, and finding ways to help them engage in the preparations and celebration in the fun, anticipating and avoiding potential obstacles whenever possible.

For most young children, large gatherings can be overwhelming and intimidating. Aunt Mabel's crushing hugs or Uncle Joe's loud, outrageous stories can be scary. The child with a learning disability may find it hard to adjust to the rush of activity, new faces and unfamiliar voices, and might become fearful or over-stimulated, causing them to act inappropriately. And for children who have difficulty regulating attention or who have trouble with sensory integration, the exaggerated embraces and loud noises can be very disconcerting.

Here are a few strategies to help reduce stress for children with LD and their families during the holiday season.

Holiday Gift Giving

Eliminate the stress of running around looking for gifts by shopping online using one of the safe internet portals such as i-give or amazon.com. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) estimates that a whopping 114 million people will use the internet this holiday shopping season and offers tips for safe shopping.

Give gift certificates for books, restaurants, or personal services for teachers and special friends. These practical and easy to use gifts might be a welcome change from the "stuff" that often ends up as clutter or on tables at garage sales in the spring.

Make donations to worthy organizations in honor of loved ones. For your child's teacher or for friends with children who have learning disabilities surprise them with a donation to NCLD made in their honor.

If you're hitting the malls, pack along snack packs. Having snacks at hand saves money and makes it easy to keep shopping without having to stop. Kids and grown ups alike can become irritable when they're tired, hungry and thirsty, so plan for snacks and short breaks along the way.

Allow your child to draw pictures or create thank you notes on the computer instead of handwriting each one.
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