Holidays With Special Needs Children

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Holidays & Special Needs | Child Development | Busy Bag Activities | Above & Beyond Award


Holiday crowds, lights, noise, strangers, hugging, change in routine, chaos…. This is a recipe for stress and sensory overload during the holidays with special needs children. As parents we need to be flexible with our own definition of what a holiday should look like. Our childhood traditions and rituals just may not work with our special needs children. Let’s create newmemories and newly define what holidays look like for our own families. All children can benefit from this exercise and for those with Autism, Aspergers, or Sensory Processing issues, self-regulating is a way of life. When you have a child with special needs… a little stress management planning can go a long way. Set Up a Safe Brain Break Space: Your child can enjoy downtime when they feel over-stimulated at your house or at your relatives. Set up a brain break space and be sure that the other children and guests know that this space is off-limits. Empower your special needs child to recognize when they need to go to their brain break space. Practice, practice, practice…. ahead of time to recognizewhenmood is escalating…Did I say practice? Empower children by packing a relaxation bag they can go to if they are feeling anxious. Bring earphones and their special relaxation music or stories. Play dough, stress ball, music, video game,

even a camera can help children relax and give them a focus if they have social anxiety. The IndigoDreams Series gives you stories that incorporate actual relaxation techniques. The stories andmusic can be downloaded to an iPod or iPad. The other kids may actually be jealous…give them their own space to de-stress. You may start a new trend! Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper is too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did. Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will

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help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child. Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools. Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking. Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions. Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. Thiswill help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list. Schedule Downtime: Don’t over book your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits. Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known tomeltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table. Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A fewpositiveminutes isworth a lifetime of memories! Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece. Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let themdraw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain from correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Written by: Lori Lite

Success Stories "Brittany brings so much creative fun and energy to each OT session. Just recently, Julian and Brittany spiced up the feeding session by making pumpkin pancakes and tickle-me-red popsicles. Julian loved every moment and bite! This is such a huge milestone for Julian considering just a short time ago he would gag at almost every new food item presented to him. Thank you, Brittany and Pediatric Therapies, for being a part of our journey. We are truly blessed!" -J.L. "At Pediatric Therapies, Molly has learned to self-regulate. If she needs assistance with regulation, she has learned to ask. As a family, we can travel and have more experiences because Molly can transition in ways that were not possible before OT. Her level of frustration has decreased significantly. I know that Molly has all these accomplishments because of her dedicated OT. Ms. Dana has forever changed Molly’s life. School OT’s that have evaluated Molly always comment that she has been worked with by an amazing OT. Ms. Dana has become family to Molly. They have a special bond that I am so grateful for; if it weren’t for all their hard work together, Molly would not be successful." -A.M. Above and Beyond Award! DANA DAYMUDE Superstar Award Our Superstar Award this month goes to Shepherd G.

Our quarterly Way Above and Beyond Award goes to Dana Daymude, M.S., OTR/L. Dana received the "Above and Beyond" award for going the extra mile in all that she does! As an OT, Dana, not only works closely with her families to ensure that the work she does is making a difference at home, but she

Shepherd hasmade great gains in therapy since he started earlier this year. He has worked so hard to make improvements in his strength, functional movements, and speech. He has the biggest family of cheerleaders helping himprogress towards his goals. His sweet smile melts your heart and he can turn your day around

CONTACT US TODAY FOR A FREE PEDIATRIC CONSULTATION TO FURTHER ASSESS YOUR CHILD'S NEEDS (615) 377-1623 | also spends additional time planning, communicating with other professionals and researching new treatment techniques and therapy materials that would benefit the kids she works with. The extra efforts that Dana puts in has an enormous impact on the families with whom she works! Additionally, as VP of Operations, Dana is an incredible leader for our therapists. Not only does she support the therapists in day to day operations, but she is constantly finding ways to bring the team even closer together. From potluck lunches to exciting in-services to the occasional crazy sock exchange, Dana has organized it all! Thank you, Dana, for being above and beyond in all that you do!

with his cuddles. He has grown up so much and has improved in his ability to prop sit for a longer time, to grasp and release blocks accurately, to tolerate standing, and is working towards walking with a walker. He is also working on greetings through waving, signing, and the verbal approximation for ‘more’. He is a joy to work with and brightens everyone’s day. We are so thankful to get to work with Shepherd and see his hard work pay off!

Do You Notice Your Child Struggling With... • Speech or language delays? • Gross or fine motor or other physical challenges? • Social skills, play and interaction? • Sensory or self regulation challenges? • Self care difficulties such as feeding or dressing?


FELT SNOWMAN What you’ll need: • 1 yard of white felt

• 1 sheet of red felt • Scissors • Spray adhesive • Thumbtacks

• 2-3 sheets of black felt • 1 sheet of orange felt

What to do: 1. First, you need to grab 1 yard of white felt, 2-3 sheets of black felt, 1 sheet of orange felt, and 1 sheet of red felt. If you want you can do some tan or brown felt for arms, too. 2. Next, cut out five big black circles (for eyes and buttons), six little black circles (for the mouth), a carrot nose, and two brown arms. 3. To make the body of the snowman, cut your white felt in half so you have two big squares. Then fold on in half hotdog-style. Now cut your snowman out! Cut three half- circles, making them bigger with each circle. Open him up and you’ve got a snowman!

4. Now you want to make your top hat and your scarf. You’ll want to wait until you have your snowman cut so you know how big your scarf and hat need to be. Create a T for your scarf, and cut the end so it looks fringed. For the hat, cut two rectangles out of your black felt so it makes a hat. 5. You have all your pieces! To make them stick, you’ll need some spray adhesive. Just follow the directions for a temporary hold, and then the pieces will stick to your snowman’s body! Don’t spray the snowman! To put the snowman up on the wall, use little silver thumbtacks. Now all your pieces will fit on your snowman and your kids can have fun building a snowman, even when there’s no snow outside!



A fun and playful seasonal twist on “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” makes this favorite nursery rhyme perfect for wintertime!

WIN A $30 GIFT CERTIFICATE! Families that have perfect attendance for the month of December will be entered into a drawing for a $30 gift certificate at the end of the month. If you attend multiple therapies, you will have multiple chances to win! Get more details from our front desk.


For any child, being able tomeet developmental milestones is an important part of learning how to function independently. In the case of a child with special needs, this fact does not change; in fact, it plays an even greater role in what he will be able to learn, accomplish and achieve. THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS It's important to realize that before a child will be able to walk, he will have to go through the different steps of learning how to roll, sit, crawl and stand. Each stage builds on the one before it, and the movements and muscle tone that he acquires along the way play an important role in his independent function. Here is a brief guide on the movements which mark the different stages of development and the reasons why they are important to your child's progress. 1. EYE MOVEMENT Eye movements play an integral role in brain development as they can tell a lot about vision and depth perception, even when a child is pre-verbal. A child's ability to follow faces and objects indicates signs about the level of their visual perception. Since sensorial experiences from the outside world will influence the wiring of his brain, a child's visual experience is important for the development of his vision. This plays a key role in developing hand- eye coordination and head movement later on. 2. HEAD CONTROL As a child progresses, head control is the next area of the body to develop. A child is born with weak neck muscles at birth. To help a child develop his head control it is beneficial to place your child on his tummy, which will encourage him to lift his head. Eventually he will be able to move his head from side to side while on his stomach, and then learn to raise his head at a 45 degree angle and maintain steadily. Turning the head helps to stimulate the nervous system, which is crucial as it provides the foundation for later milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking. Good head control will also enable your child to swallow solid foods, thus improving your child's health and digestion. 3. GRASPING/TACTILE SENSES The primary steps of grasping are the foundation for playing, reading, writing, drawing, feeding himself, self-care and overall road to independence. Touch is the most important of all senses as it is interconnected with emotional, social, and physical growth, cognitive potential and immune functions. As a result, it is important to stimulate areas such as your child's hands and feet with objects that have different textures. This will help him acclimate to new environments as he learns to maneuver himself in various spaces. 4. MINI-PUSHUP At about four months, many babies should be able to hold their head and chest up by supporting themselves with their elbows. In order to help your child learn to support his upper body, you can place himon the floor or playpen to practice his mini-pushups. This will help your child gain and strengthen his neck, back and armmuscles which are neededwhen learning how to roll over. 5. ROLLING Gaining the ability to roll will greatly depend on whether a child has met his previous milestones. At this stage, proper head control and the muscles used during a mini-pushup become crucial to learning how to roll his body. To flip fromhis back to his tummy requires stronger neck and armmuscles,

so this step will develop after he has mastered turning from his stomach to his back. In the process, your child will develop his leg, neck, back and arm muscles, which are essential in helping a child to improve his breathing and subsequently achieve his next steps. 6. SITTING UPRIGHT While placing a young child in a sitting position can happen anytime, he will only be able to do it by himself once he has learned to roll over and hold up his head. This is important because a child's ability to achieve this task will depend on whether he has developed themuscles in his neck, had and back. As he moves on from propping himself up to sitting momentarily, he will develop the tone in his trunk which will allow him to be able to sit without support. Thiswill then enable him tomove on tomovements such as crawling. 7. CRAWLING A child starts becomingmobile as his limbs and trunk become strong enough to support his body, which then enables him tomove into a crawling position. With practice, a child learns to cross-crawl and other ways of moving around. Crawling us an important stage in development since it helps to strengthen the legs, arms and trunk enough for a child to stand and eventually walk. 8. STANDING As a prequel to walking, a child will begin using objects to pull himself into a standing position. With time, he will use furniture and other items to keep himself upright while moving around, and develop the tone in his limbs and trunk enough to stand independently. Once a child achieves this step, he will soon be able to support his weight as he learns to bend his knees, squat and sit down from a standing position. This will prepare him for learning how to walk and coordinate the rest of his body. 9. WALKING Once a child has gone through and achieved each of these stages, he will be prepared to start learning how to walk. Most children learn to walk independently when they have developed the muscle tone in their bodies, limbs and trunks well enough to control, coordinate and adequately support each of their movements. As a result, each of these movements play an important role in your child's progress. It is important to go through them in order as each builds on the skills achieved in the previous stage. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT Every child is different and will develop at his pace; however, it is crucial that he does pass through these stages as a part of the treatment process. This is your child's development, so don't be afraid to ask questions and do your best to help your child achieve his full potential.

Written by: Special Needs Resources

1880 General George Patton Dr. Suite 202B Franklin, TN 37067 Fax: (615) 377-1625


Call us today at (615) 377-1623


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