Tagged "holiday season"


Some of the best presents cannot be put in a box!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

“That will be five dollars to get into the game.” Weird how those ten words can make me think.

Okay, perhaps you might need a bit of background information here. I heard those words as I entered my ten-year-old son’s basketball game this past Saturday. I had not heard those words since last year’s basketball season. A full year ago. 365 days ago. But it felt like yesterday.

And this got me thinking about time. Or rather the quickly passing thing called TIME.

When you look at your child’s pictures from years ago…what do you say? For us it is: “Wow, time passes so quickly” or “Where did the time go?”

It is a funny, crazy thing in life, this thing called time. Because it passes so quickly on one hand, but try to fill 15 minutes with a younger sibling while waiting for your other child in therapy and it passes more S-L-O-W-L-Y than you can imagine.

Holidays mark the passing of time better than anything I can think of. We can remember last year’s holidays and hardly believe we are here again. And we can get so into the things we have to do, the places we have to be, and the gifts we have to buy, that we can forget to take it all in and remember. And make those memories!!

I know that when Elizabeth was little, like one or two years old, and deep in the throws of her sensory needs, I spent so much time working hard to keep her “good” that the holidays were in my rear view before I had a chance to enjoy them.

I learned so much about life with a special needs child throughout all these years. Not only about Elizabeth and her special needs, but about how to manage them, encourage her, and help her. And be peaceful myself.

I learned that:

  • We can skip an event because of Elizabeth and that is okay.
  • We can plan something and change our mind if we need to for Elizabeth and that’s okay.
  • We can be proud of the work we have done for her in this year’s time and that’s okay.
  • We can make memories our own way and that’s okay.
  • There is no one way to make Christmas special and that my friends is FREEING.

If you allow yourself to do the above, in my opinion, you can free yourself to make memories and enjoy the holidays to the best of your ability.

Something else to think about:

When you look back on the holiday from last year to this year, you can see the changes your child has made. Gains in words said, clarity of words, new skills mastered or even some good eye contact maintained. Whatever it is, you can see the growth as measured by the time frame of a year. So allow these positives to be a type of Christmas present to you and your family. Some of the best presents cannot be put in a box!

I wish you blessed holidays and more memories than you can count.

Michele Gianetti writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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How we deal with a special needs child on Thanksgiving

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Raise your hand if you cannot believe we are one day away from Thanksgiving, the official unofficial beginning of the holiday season.

I feel like I just shut my door at the end of Halloween and then … BAM, we are talking turkey, stuffing, days off and then ... gulp ... Christmas.

I try to remember what the holidays were like before we had our beautiful Elizabeth and I simply cannot. I try to remember what it was like before we had to wonder if the noises, lights, tastes, crowds and more, would make a fun time not so fun. And, again, I simply cannot. I think we have been on this journey with Elizabeth for so long that those previous times are kind of like in a vault somewhere in my mind. So as much as Thanksgiving can stress the most even-keeled of us, add in the challenges that are unique to our special children and like a good recipe for stuffing, you have yourself a recipe for a challenging day.

Think about it: the Thanksgiving holiday arrives just about the time the Halloween candy is still mostly uneaten, the leaves are still on the trees (it is Ohio) and the weather is kind of cool, not cold yet. See where am I going with this? There is no screaming announcement that this holiday is coming. It sort of creeps in as we start to see Christmas trees appearing in our stores and then it is THERE!!! Not only is it there suddenly, it is not typically a holiday that you can sort of attend.

- I mean on July 4th, you can go or not go to fireworks.

- On Easter, you can attend a nice dinner or schedule a lunch or brunch.

- But not for Thanksgiving!!! It is the big meal that makes it the very holiday it is. For those of you thinking “No, Michele, it is about giving thanks for all your blessing,” I will say “That is so very true and something never forgotten about the holiday.” But I am seeing it from the pragmatic point of view of how to help our children enjoy this holiday as best as they can. With all this being said, here are my thoughts on how to make Thanksgiving the best you can for your family and your special child.

It is ok to sigh first

I give total permission for any of us to simply sigh and feel all that we feel upon realizing that Thanksgiving is here. By that I mean: feel what you feel even if it is worry, dread or borderline panic or maybe simple joy. Feel it, do not deny it. I spent so many years pretending I was okay. I would squish down feelings of panic or sadness and pretend. How unfair to all. Me, my family, my husband and all those family members. Those same family members who could have supported us in these tough times. So feel it, talk about it, and lean on those who are there for you. You will feel so much less alone.

Make your plans

After you have allowed yourself the time to feel, now comes the time to make some plans. So many of us have the traditions that hold true no matter what. So know your families plans that lay before you. Do you have to be at Aunt Martha’s at 2:00 and your Godmother’s house for dessert at 5:00? And then somewhere in there you have to stop and say hello to your Uncle? Yes, those are the kind of schedules that, even as I write this, I have to stop and breathe. So as you look at the Thanksgiving holiday, truly think: “Can we do it all? Should we do it all?” and “How do we handle the things we cannot do?

I offer out maybe you can do it all, but will it be too much for your child? Will one successful dinner be better than several complete meltdowns?

I think that having a child with special needs should allow you to put aside the “shoulds” in these situations and do the best you can do. Hey, maybe all will be wonderful that day and you can do it all. But why not be honest with everyone beforehand and tell them you will try your best and then feel no guilt.

Bring on the reinforcements

In this case I am not talking about a troop of soldiers. I am talking about things.

A DVD player and their favorite movies. Trust me, nothing is more scary to a mom desperately looking for a favorite TV show at a relatives’ house, than to find that they cancelled cable the week before and all you can put on is either an info-medical or a football game. Neither of which will work, trust me, I have done the leg work on this one. So having their DVD player and favorite movies can provide them a bit of downtime.

Foods that they like. I most definitely encouraged Elizabeth to try new foods, still do as a matter of fact. But the truth is, when they are stressed it is harder for them to eat a turkey made a different way. Or in our world, it was mashed potatoes that threw Elizabeth. You see I use the potato flakes. She loves them. Then we come across homemade ones, with lumps! Well she was done after the first bite. So we learned to encourage her to try food but to have favorites packed in reserve.

Their favorite blankets (weighted if needed). How nice to cover them while they relax a bit with a show and get some deep pressure as well.

A bribe. One of my fan favorites. In Elizabeth world, food was and is the currency of choice. So we would pick one of her favorites and have it with us to encourage her to try a new food, to sit at the table well, etc. I am not always proud of my bribery, but I have learned to live with myself ;)

Share some expectations

While you want to help them enjoy the holiday by doing the above, you also want to help them continue to grow and achieve. So talk to your child about what you hope to see in terms of behavior.

- Tell them where you are going.

- Tell them who you will see, about how long you will stay. (For young children, I would use a reference they could understand. For Elizabeth, we used to tell her we would be somewhere for about one show.)

- Tell them about the different food they will see.

- It is also helpful for you to teach your child how to ask for a break if they need it. I know this can be hard with those non-verbal children or ones that are too young. But perhaps you can think about this as a goal for the future but in the meantime, if they look stressed, offer them a break. I never did this, I just kept pretending I was fine and pushing Elizabeth to “hang in.” So, I know what I could have done better and I offer out the above from that place of past experience.

Now give those thanks

- If you see something your child did this year that did not last year: give thanks.

- If you know you are stronger now than last year: give thanks.

- If you are simply proud that your family is smiling: give thanks.

So many of the simple things in life, the simple successes can mean so much to those who have a special needs child. They teach us to appreciate the minute things in life. And to give thanks. Our children are precious gifts. Give thanks.

Wishing you all a peaceful Thanksgiving.

Blessings to all.

-Michele Gianetti 

Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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How we survive the holiday season

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year … Welcome to the holiday season!

When you have a child with special needs, many days go by and you don’t necessarily think about your child’s special needs in any extra fashion. Meaning you go about your life with its therapies, struggles and successes. Not really thinking, just doing.

But then there are times that the awareness of your child’s special needs will not only surface but take forefront in your mind. One of these times is the holiday season, as it is full of unique situations and stresses. Typically every one is a bit more stressed and we would all have to agree that even though the holidays are more than beautiful, how many times a day do you hear a stressed voice? Or see a frantic person? Or even, experience the joy of some holiday road rage over the last parking space? So it would figure that our special children feel the stress and changes too!

So many families with typically developing children will go to parties where it is loud, bright and crowded. Or to the movies, where it is loud and dark. Or to a family function with lots of hugs and talking. And we will think … Can we? Should we?

Others will go sled riding and we think: will she do it? Should we try it?

Even the choice of gifts can create such an awareness of the special needs of your child.  Each toy, even if age appropriate, needs to be thought through.

Will she try this? Touch this at all? Is it too loud? Too complicated?

These are just the few examples that popped into my head as I write this blog, there really are countless more. Some make your heart hurt, some make you want to cry and others make you proud when you realize just how far your child has come since last year.

Oh yes, the holidays are full of awareness!

So here's some advice:

Over the years, with some greatly successful and some really tough holiday seasons behind us, I have made up a mental list of how to approach this time of year.

How we survive the holiday season bpicture for Elizabeth post Dec. 2015

Remember your child is indeed that, a child, who needs the support of family and friends. So speak for them if they cannot.

          • Let those having the party know your child’s needs and how they “work”
          • Let family know what they can do and what to do if a meltdown occurs
          • Let friends know how they can help with your other children if needed

    Remember it is never wrong to advocate for your child!

    Remember that even the little successes can be celebrated:

    • If your child gets her picture taken this year but did not last year … Celebrate it!
    • If they could write their Santa letter this year … Celebrate it!
    • If they tolerated a loud party … Celebrate it!

      Early on in Elizabeth’s life, I made the mistake of trying to pretend that all was well with Elizabeth. Meaning denial overtook clear thinking. But I will tell you that being honest with others and asking for help will be a huge relief.

      Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia do not quit, they are part of our daughter forever. I used to look at Elizabeth and think: “What can I do to fix this?” But you know what? She does not need to be fixed because she is not broken. Special needs children are not broken. But they do need special things.

      What all special needs children need is:

      • to be understood

      • to be treated like a typically developing children and be offered the same chance at life’s experiences

      • to have needed supports in place

      • to be encouraged.

      These hold true in everyday life and even more so during these busy holiday times. So don’t be afraid to:

      • ask for a special consideration for your child

      • stay for a bit of the party and leave if needed

      • decline an invitation you know will be too much for them

      • explain why you cannot do two parties or events in one day

      We want our children to have the chance to enjoy this magical time and just like they are special in their needs in life, they will need some special considerations during the holiday time.

      Once you understand how your child “works”, you will be able to help them enjoy the season, the magic and the love of this busy time of year.

      -Michele Gianetti

      Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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