The holidays can be an especially difficult time for families who have a member with developmental disabilities. Changes in routine, the lights, new sounds, smells, and relatives who want to hug can all lead to sensory overstimulation for someone with a neuro disability and a very challenging situation for the entire family.
Neurological disabilities include a wide range of disorders, such as learning disabilities, autism, down syndrome, ADD, and cerebral palsy, just to name a few.
Sherri Henderson, co-founder of Henderson Haven and the mother of a son with down syndrome has some expert tips on how to make the holidays easier for families and children with developmental disabilities.
· Try to maintain as much of a routine as possible
· Be flexible with how your child wants to decorate. Children with autism or other neuro disorders may line up or stack decorations rather than decorate in the traditional way.
· Have a conversation with relatives or friends before they come over about the best way to interact with a child with autism or other neuro disorders.
· Be mindful of when in the day you plan your holiday festivities. Children with neuro disorders tend to handle the mornings better than activities scheduled late in the day or the evening.
When holiday gift shopping for children or young adults with developmental disabilities it’s important to include sensory toys. Most of our learning comes through our ability to use our senses to retain information. Sensory toys can provide stimulation for senses, help to build nerve connections to the brain, improve cognitive growth and encourage children to develop motor skills. Sensory play can help develop and enhance memory skills, problem-solving skills and even improve handwriting.
Sensory toys can also provide children with a safe way to calm themselves and focus. Sensory play is about learning in a fun way and overall helps those with disabilities live a fuller and happier life.
Over the years, Henderson Haven has worked with families to identify what sensory toys or objects work best for their child or young adult with developmental disabilities. You can download a Gift Giving Guide of these tried-and-true gift suggestions to make gift-giving a little easier at www.hendersonhaven.org.