Ok, here they come. Whether or not we are ready the holidays descend upon us like some kind of invasion from outer space. They are full of expectations and the pressure to do more…more baking, entertaining, gift buying and decorating. One of the toughest times for parents with special needs children is to try get it all done, feel joy and celebrate the season in a world that is not designed for their kids.
So much of our holiday celebration revolves around the Santa tradition. A child with physical challenges and sensory integration issues may hate going to the noisy mall or other venue to wait for hours to sit on Santa’s knee. Even if the mall or Christmas festival is handicap accessible, the crowds usually make getting around in a wheelchair impossible.
The supposedly happy act of visiting Father Christmas can easily result in mind blowing tantrums, instead of a serene Norman Rockwell Santa scene. Both of my children, one with disabilities and one without, never actually liked to sit on Santa’s knee. Our adult daughter finally confided her dislike of getting dressed up for those Santa on the knee photographs. Phillip just resisted being held by Chris Kringle and never looked truly happy.
I think that some of our favorite “Mums” from across the Pond have the right idea. British mothers have gotten together to hold their own festival for children with and without disabilities. Both children and parents are finding new joy in celebrating the season by making a festival that’s truly inclusive.
Here’s what they’ve done.
- First, their children can make an appointment to sit on Santa’s knee, instead of waiting in line.
- Everything is sensory conscious, no loud noises nor obnoxious lights
- There are fun activities for siblings of kids with disabilities
- There’s animal therapy, art workshops and theatre entertainment in a well planned accessible setting
These are great ideas that could be easily duplicated in the States. There are many other ways to think outside the box and help your family sail through the holidays. We have some friends who just invite a reputable Santa to visit their living room, a few days before Christmas. It’s joyful, but more serene and quiet for everyone.