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Holiday Survival Mode

Holidays offer a number of challenges for individuals with sensory processing challenges. For me, the lights and sounds of the holidays can lead to migraines and tremors, along with a general sense of overload.

Imagine being a child without the ability to escape the sights, sounds, smells, and touches of the holidays. Blinking lights (and often too many or too bright); sirens and party sounds; smells of baking, fireplaces, and fragrances; everyone seems to wants hugs and handshakes, if not kisses. It is an overwhelming holiday.

We have two little ones with sensory processing issues and other special needs. I rarely write about them on the blog. I wanted to share that not only must we plan strategically for my special needs, but we must also plan for their needs as children.

First, tell people about the sensory challenges. Eventually, I either have to leave a party or will have a stress meltdown. Telling people that crowded, loud spaces can be a problem might let hosts know that if I step outside it isn't because I want to be rude. Honesty works better than avoidance.

Second, have a survival strategy for each location and event. Know where the quieter spaces are in stores, schools, houses, and so on. I know where the "dead zones" are in most stores and malls because I need them. Our children also sometimes need these quieter spaces. Curiously, one quiet space is the furniture section of Macy's in our major malls. Apparently not many people shop for new chairs and beds during the holidays. If there is a Sears, the entire store is quiet. I'm not being sarcastic, either. It's a dead zone.

Third, have comfort items on hand. For me, that's my iPhone and Solebon Solitaire. When I am stressed, I play solitaire. Our children like water-pen based "painting" books, which fit conveniently in a purse or travel bag. We use an old book bag and carry some basic items with us.

Fourth, consider ways to counter the inputs. Noise-cancelling headphones with classical music works for me, along with old-time radio shows. I use headphones with podcasts when walking. I also allow our little ones to wear sunglasses inside if they feel better with them. If wearing sunglasses make light shows more enjoyable, there's nothing wrong with that.

Fifth, teach children it is okay not to hug or kiss if they don't want to. I'd rather not hug people, either.

Many websites have longer lists of tips, and experience is the best teacher of all when you prepare a holiday survival guide.

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