No More Holi-daze: 6 Tips for Happier Holidays with Complex Learners
Monday, November 23, 2015
Whether it’s Thanksgiving or New Year’s, Hanukkah or Christmas, Kwanzaa or Solstice – there’s a whirlwind of activity that brings wonderful, joyful memories but also plenty of stress-filled moments.
For children with complex learning profiles, the holiday experience feels even more intense. Schedules are less predictable, stores are overwhelming, Aunt Betsy from Toledo can’t stop hugging and kissing you, weird food shows up on the table that people want you to eat, and you’re expected to play with cousins you hardly ever see. You’re staying up late, overexcited, and probably eating more sweets. For Complex Learners, it’s a perfect storm of sensory overload and disrupted routines that can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, and meltdowns.
With a little planning and preparation, a lot of potential difficulties can be addressed. Here are a few ideas to help you and your Complex Learner manage this busy time of year and enjoy the special gatherings and activities the holidays bring.
1) Preview visits, parties and family gatherings. Let Complex Learners know what to expect at family or school parties. What happens first? Who will be there? Review social rules like how to greet your host when you get there and thanking your host when you leave. Set a specific amount of time for visits and see if there is a quiet place your child can go if things get too loud or overwhelming. Schedule a check-in time during the visit or party to see if your child needs additional support. If sitting through a large group dinner is hard for your child, agree on a set amount of time they can manage at the table and then let them be excused to play or have some quiet time.
2) Make or bring familiar foods. The holiday dinner table can paralyze Complex Learners with all the choices, smells, and textures. Be sure to make or bring something you know your child likes and will eat, whether it’s a dish to share or some particular foods to have on hand just in case. Your family may raise an eyebrow if everyone is eating turkey and your child is eating chicken nuggets, but it may just be worth avoiding a major struggle. You can always let your host or others know about this ahead of time.
4) Gift Getting 101. Complex Learners may need to practice what to do if they receive a gift they don’t like or how to stop and say thank you before charging on to open another gift. Role-play various scenarios ahead of time and help your child understand the perspective of the gift giver. Try and keep things simple – too many gifts can be overwhelming to Complex Learners.
5) Go outside. The weather may not always cooperate, but long visits and family meals need to be balanced with fresh air, movement and exercise. It’s important to keep your child engaged in physical activity to help with sensory and emotional regulation. A family game of tag or a holiday hike will go a long way.
6) Think of others. Help your child find simple ways to give to family members and friends so they can experience how it feels to give and not just receive. Let your child select clothes or toys to donate to kids in need or find opportunities to give back to the community. This time of year is a natural fit for learning perspective taking and helping kids think outside of their own view and needs.
Don’t forget - managing holiday stress is a team effort. Rely on teachers, friends and family to support you as you work to make things easier for your complex learner. And remember to breathe! Taking a minute to relax and breathe deeply is a simple thing you can do with your child or by yourself to help alleviate the daze of the holidays!
This series is a partnership between GoLocal and the Wolf School.
Related Slideshow: 50 Ways to Give in Rhode Island This Holiday Season
St. Mary¹s Home for Children is the State¹s most comprehensive residential treatment facility for boys and girls who have been traumatized by abuse and those experiencing psychiatric and/or emotional impacts.
During the holiday season, St. Mary¹s looks to their friends in the community to help make the season a bright one for the children. For giving suggestions, please visit our website at http://www.smhfc.org. or contact Susan DeRita at 353-3900 x262 or by e-mail, [email protected] for additional information or giving options.
153 Summer Street, Providence
The Children's Friend annual Spirit of Giving Holiday Drive is under way looking to match generous individuals and organizations with families in need across the state.
The goal for 2015 Children's Friend Giving Holiday Drive is to sponsor 1,450 families and 4,500 children during the month of December.
New coats, clothing, toys, books and bikes will be collected at Children's Friend.
308 Callahan Road, North Kingstown
36 Bridge Way, Pascoag
142A Danielson PIke, Foster
WellOne's mission is to provide primary medical and dental care and behavioral health services to the residents of the Rhode Island communities. WellOne puts an emphasis is to promote the highest quality of health for the individual and family as well as for the community.
100 Medway Street, Providence
The mission at Day One is to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence as well as to support and advocate for those affected by it. Day One provides treatment, intervention, education, advocacy, and prevention services to Rhode Islanders of all ages
415 Friendship St., Providence, RI
Amos House accepts monetary donations to support the training, housing, and recovery programs they provide for the hungry, homeless and unemployed in Rhode Island.
The organization also accepts donations in-kind such as gently used strollers, pillowcases, laundry detergent, baby formula, and first aid kits for the families who participate in their programs.
Photo: Amos House
1350 Bald Hill Road, Warwick
Politicians from all over the state have been invited to make proclamations at BBBSOS’ Give-a-Thon at Barnes and Noble on December 1st at 1:00PM. BBBSOS will be engaging the state to take part in #GivingTuesday via social media and a press conference
The goal for the day to raise $12,000 for BBBSOS’ mission; to provide mentors to the youth of Rhode Island who will motivate and empower them to make positive decisions, improve academic results, avoid risky behaviors and grow in a way that will positively impact the community.
Barnes and Noble Warwick will donate up to 20% of all sales including books, toys, holiday items and even café items will go back to BBBSOS. (Shoppers must use code 11671864 at checkout or mention BBBSOS.)
P.O. Box 14404 East Providence
The National Federation of the Blind of RI is an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, the largest consumer advocacy organization in the world.
The Rhode Island affiliate has 2 chapters. The Greater Providence Chapter meets the third Saturday of the month in East Providence. The Mounth Hope Chapter meets the third Thursday of the month in Bristol.
P.O. Box 6214, Middletown
The Star Kids Scholarship Program's philosophy is empowerment.The Program Empowers low-income children, who have a parent with a history of incarceration and/or substance abuse, to break the cycle of poverty, drug abuse, and incarceration through education. Our goal for each child is to graduate high school.
High school graduation will lead each child to a path of higher education and opportunities for a better life.
600 Mt. Pleasent Avenue, Building #6 RI College Campus
Established in 1932, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League provides sports programs for Rhode Island high school teams. The league puts on in season tournaments as well as State Championship tournaments.
155 Plan Way Warwick RI 02886 USA
Plan strives to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of vulnerable children in developing countries by: Enabling children, their families and their communities to meet basic needs and to increase their ability to participate in and benefit from their societies; Fostering relationships to increase understanding and unity among peoples of different cultures and countries; and Promoting the rights and interests of the world’s children.
DESIGNxRI is an economic builder, collaborator & communicator for design industries in Rhode Island. DESIGNxRI's goal is to maximize the assets of the design community and highlight its creative, innovative problem-solving practices to attract business opportunities and design jobs to Rhode Island.
20 Dr. Marcus F Wheatland Blvd, Newport
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center looks to provide our clients with the tools and the knowledge to support their dreams. The MLK Community Center is as impactful and meaningful to the 3 year old toddler entering his first day of preschool as it is to our breakfast program clients who join us daily for a nutritious meal shared with friends.
1010 Hartford Ave, Johnston, RI
Operation Stand Down supports veteran female soldiers who have experienced hardship and homelessness in Rhode Island through their Cpl. Holly Charette House.
Help our troops come home and get back on their feet by donating to Operation Stand Down.
You can also help by organizing food drives for their other locations.
405 Promenade St., Providence, RI
Rhode Island Blood Center was established in 1979 as a non-profit community blood center.
The Blood Center is the only source of blood and blood products for the hospitals’ of Rhode Island while also serving customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
386 Smith St., Providence, RI
Sojourner House, Inc. is a domestic violence agency that assists victims of relationship violence by providing shelter, advocacy and violence prevention education.
Donate to their safe house wish list with items like toaster ovens, small tables, pillows, fitted sheets, and pots and pans for their residents.
Photo: Sojourner House
160 Westminister Street, Suite 202, Providence
The Rhode Island Mayoral Academies are committed to identifying high-quality school leaders and operators to open excellent racially and socioeconomically diverse public schools in areas of Rhode Island with a shortage of school choice.
25 Esten Avenue, Pawtucket
Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
P.O. Box 40758 Providence
Part of the Oath is the intersection between medicine and the performing arts; the culmination of a twenty year journey. Raising awareness and educating Rhode Islanders on current social and health issues, part of the oath is driving social change through community empowerment.
38 Asa Pond Rd., Wakefield, RI
Rock Paper Scissors Children's Fund is an organization that supports music and art programs for children in Vietnam.
You can even donate a bike to children who often have to walk long distances to get to school.
Photo: Rock Paper Scissors Children's Fund
743 Westminster St., Providence, RI
New Urban Arts was founded in 1997 and provides a community arts studio for students and emerging artists in Providence.
Donate your time as a volunteer to help mentor urban high school kids and help foster a supportive and creative community.
Photo: New Urban Arts
160 Broad St, Providence, RI
Crossroads is the largest homeless services organization in Rhode Island.
Donate goods like baby diapers, non-perishable food items, and toiletries to the organization this year to help those who are homeless or at risk during these winter months.
226 Bellevue Ave., Newport, RI
Hope Funds for Cancer Research holds special events every year to help raise money for young researchers looking for fellowship opportunities.
Become a philanthropist for the organization by attending, or make a gift to help fund cancer research in Rhode Island.
Photo: Hope Funds for Cancer Research
325 Laurel Ridge Ln., N. Kingstown, RI
Operation Support Our Troops sends care packages to members of the armed forces.
Give our troops a sense of home with your donation, and help them remember they are cared for. You can ever make a donation in honor of a soldier in your life.
Photo: Operation Support Our Troops
2346 Post Rd, Warwick, RI
Children’s Wishes of Rhode Island grants wishes to children living with life-threatening medical illnesses.
Refer a special child in your life or donate things like air miles, and fundraising events to help them say “yes” to children in the community.
Photo: Children's Wishes of Rhode Island
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