Some people love the festive season – the flashing lights, the excitement and anticipation, the parties! For others it’s just hard work with the shopping, cooking and preparations. For some it can be a really stressful time of year. Children with speech, language and communication needs can often find it hard this time of year for lots of different reasons:
‘He just seems to hate Christmas. He screams when carol singers come to the door. He doesn’t like flashing lights on the tree. And crackers are definitely out.’ Juliet, the parent of a 4 year old with autism, describes Christmas as needing more preparation than moving house. But it has got easier as she’s got to know how Max responds, what he gets anxious about and how hard he finds it cope. These are some things to think about if your child has speech, language and communication needs.
Try to think ahead
Holidays involve a change in routine which can cause children to become unsettled and anxious. They sometimes don’t know what’s going to happen next and this can make them more upset than usual. We can help reduce their anxiety by letting them know what will happen day to day using a visual timetable. This lets you talk about and show them what’s going to happen using pictures. It’s a bit like us using a diary and children can find it reassuring if their routine changes. Find out more about visual timetables.
If you are going to go somewhere unfamiliar try to prepare them by showing them pictures about where you are going and who’s going to be there.
We all have different environments that calm or excite us. Some children can get overwhelmed in a situation that we think is normal because they are very sensitive to noise or flashing lights. Get to know your child’s sensory preferences – are they scared by noise or lights? Or do they like them? Some children become overwhelmed by what’s going on around them but other children may love staring at the Christmas lights.
If they do get overwhelmed is there somewhere they can go to calm down? Do they have certain activities that they enjoy to calm them down? Some children like a quite, cosy space other children have a favourite DVD that helps them.
Learning what to do
Children with SLCN can find it difficult to know what to do in social situations so will need some help e.g. prompting ‘you can open your present’ and model it for them. Or the reverse – that they don’t open everyone else’s presents at once!
Want to find out more?
You can call I CAN Help on 020 7843 2544 and book a time to speak to one of our speech and language therapists. We will call you back free of charge and can give you tips and ideas to help during the holidays – and all year round!