As parents, you want to make the holidays as jolly as possible for your kids. Keeping children with special needs merry, though, can be challenging. The hubbub of family celebrations and parties can overwhelm those with sensory issues; others might find the break in routine unsettling (and meltdown-inducing). It's also not very joyous for a kid with delays to open up a present that doesn't fit his developmental stage.
Happily, there are plenty of strategies that can help kids with special needs have just as much fun as any kid. Parenting bloggers share the tactics that have enabled their kids to have truly happy holidays -- and peace, too!
Help Kids Prepare
"My autistic son thrives on routine and feeling informed, which makes the chaos of the holidays hard for him," says Shannon Des Roches Rosa, mom to Leo, 12, and blogger at Squidalicious.
"A visual schedule helps him understand why and how his routine will change, allows him to focus on the fun to come and lowers his anxiety over being in a different place with different people."
She uses apps like ChoiceWorks and Routinely to create visual schedules, and makes paper ones, too. "We include pictures of the people we'll be seeing," explains Rosa. "We'll also use icons of Christmas trees, presents, and turkey dinner. Then Leo can relax and get into the holiday spirit!"
Read our article on the 22 Best Mobile Apps for Kids with Special Needs »
Share a Gift Wish List
"The truth is, it can be difficult to pick the right gift for any kid. Add in special needs and things get even more difficult," says Katy Monnot, mom to Charlie, a five-year-old with cerebral palsy, who blogs at Bird on the Street.
"I email each set of grandparents a list of suggested gifts. I'll include a tried-and-true one -- something Charlie's seen before and loves or something similar, plus a book because kids needs books, and a gift that addresses one of the goals he's working on."
When one of Charlie's therapists set a goal for him to use both hands during play (since he tends to favor one hand), Monnot requested a box of instruments with a tambourine and cymbals to encourage the use two hands. "This works out great for everyone," she notes. "The grandparents know that at least one of their gifts will make his eyes light up, and I know that at least one of their gifts will encourage him to try new things. It's a win-win."
Hire a (Sitter) Elf to Help
"A couple of years ago, when our family was invited to a Hannukah party, the first thing we did was book a babysitter to take along with us," says Jana Banin, mom to 6-year-old Zack, who has autism. "We knew the noise and crowded space would be too much for Zack -- and we wanted to make sure he had a good time and we did, too."
Banin, who blogs at I Hate Your Kids (And Other Things Autism Parents Won't Say Out Loud), knew her ploy would help: "The sitter could play with him, make sure he didn't grab a cookie from someone else's plate and make sure he didn't wander out onto the street. The evening was a success! Zack and [the babysitter] checked out all the different food, snacked, curled up on the couch as he played his iPad. Since then, we bring our sitter with us to parties."
Look into hiring a special needs sitter for your child this holiday season.
Teach Other Kids about Your Kids
To help other children understand her daughters Evangeline and Polly, who are both 6 and have Down syndrome, Gillian Marchenko sends out an educational e-mail before the holidays to families they plan on visiting. It includes pointers such as:
- Your friend might need more time to answer questions or finish an activity.
- Some kids with special needs can be focused on one topic; even though it can get annoying, it makes him feel special when you listen and appreciate the things he loves.
- Kids with special needs are often made fun of or bullied. Be brave and defend your friend.
As Marchenko says, "Friends and family are grateful for the advice."
Need tips for talking to a child about special needs? Check out our article on Teaching Your Child about Peers with Special Needs »
Let Go of Your Expectations
"My son Gavin has cerebral palsy and when he turned two, I wrapped every present and couldn't wait for him to open them on Christmas morning," says Kate Gallagher Leong of Chasing Rainbows.
"It was one of the worst mornings of his little life. He has issues with fine-motor skills, and forcing him to use his hands to rip open the paper was more like therapy than Christmas. That's when I realized I shouldn't project my Norman Rockwell Christmas onto my child. The following year, every toy was out of its box and ready to play with, making a bright and inviting display under the tree. The look on Gavin's face as he moved from one toy to the other made it the best morning of all our lives!"
Posted by: Marilyn Lucey
The San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs presents
Parenting for Resilience
- Parenting focused on the goal of raising engaged, resilient kids who respond to life's ups and downs with resolve and grow into adults with happy and meaningful lives
- Parenting focused on the growth mindset (genuine mastery motivation, intellectual fearlessness) versus the static mindset (grades, awards)
- Parenting focused on nurturing innovative thinking versus perfectionism
- Parenting focused on modeling healthy life balance versus anxiety habits
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
7:00 to 9:00 PM
Iron Horse Middle School MPR
12601 Alcosta Blvd., San Ramon, CA 94583
Dr. Dan Peters of the Summit Center in Walnut Creek has presented many times in the San Ramon Valley School District. His presentations at Parent Education Evening Speaker Series and the Annual Parenting Conference on topics such as Taming the Worry Monster in GATE, High Achieving, and Highly Sensitive Students and Characteristics for the Gifted Learner make him a perennial favorite. His knowledge, insight, and sense of humor make him a well-liked and popular speaker among parents. His message is appropriate for all parents and applicable to all students, regardless of GATE identification.
The evening’s schedule will include Dr. Peters’ presentation from 7:00-8:15pm and a question and answer section with Dr. Peters, Lisa Ward, SRVUSD Director of Student Services, Jason Reimann, SRVUSD Director of Instructional Services, and Lisa Olson, former school district guidance counselor and proprietor of a college counseling professional service, for the remainder of our time.
This event is free with registration. Register to attend http://www.eventbrite.com/e/parenting-for-resilience-tickets-9536773747
This event is open to all and endorsed by both the San Ramon Valley Council
of PTAs’ Special Needs and Parent & Community Concerns Committees.
If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com
To learn more about the Special Needs Committee and the
Parent and Community Concerns Committee, visit www.srvcpta-ca.schoolloop.com
Posted by: Marilyn Lucey
These programs, events and services are not organized, sponsored, nor endorsed by the Special Needs Committee or the San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs - they are listed for informational purposes only. If you think any of these listed are inappropriate for our community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
We are excited to announce that the Winter Session of our SHIPs Program: Social Skills Classes for Children will begin on January 8, 2014. Registration is now open!
Classes will be held on Wednesday afternoons at 3:30 PM, with a possibility of a Thursday afternoon class being added based on demand. The SHIPs classes will meet for 60 minutes in duration, one time per week at our San Ramon office for a total of 8 weeks. Our groups have a 4:1 student to teacher ratio and are led by Kara Solomon, a Licensed Speech and Language Pathologist and Julie Burlingame, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
What Sets the SHIPs Program Apart?
Ø Uniquely led by both a Board Certified Behavior Analyst AND a Speech and Language Pathologist, our team provides a personalized approach within a supportive environment that fosters each child’s development.
Ø Consistent with current best practices, the SHIPs Program uses an assessment-based framework for curriculum development, so that we can tailor each session with our individual group members’ specific needs.
Ø The SHIPs Program distinctly maps out an individualized social curriculum for each child and maximizes learning by matching children with similar profiles to form appropriate social skills groups.
Ø The many goals of the SHIPs Program will vary for each child but generally include: expanding knowledge of language concepts and vocabulary; understanding motivations; developing self-monitoring skills; recognizing verbal and non-verbal social cues; identifying personal strategies; and improving self-esteem among peers.
Ø For parents, the SHIPs Program offers education and consultation with a focus on providing: better understanding of the child’s social strengths/weaknesses; strategies for facilitating social skill success in various contexts; methods for eliciting desirable social behaviors and communication; and an unparalleled support network with close collaboration among parents and professionals.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
Julie & Kara
Julie S. Burlingame, M.A., BCBA
Kara Solomon, M.S., CCC-SLP
is now offering a class for children with Special Needs. The first class will be Thursday, November 21st from 4:30 pm - 5:15 pm. Class size is limited, but more classes may be available. If you have any questions or need assistance reserving your spot, please call Edge at (925) 479-9904 or send an e-mail to
SAFE Voices Monthly Meeting
(Student Advisors for Education)
Students with learning differences ages 13 – 19
Posted by: Marilyn Lucey
Effecitve October 2013, Todd Gary has resigned from his post as Special Needs Liaison. SRVUSD has hired a new 'Special Needs Ombuds' to assume the responsibilities fulfilled by Todd in the past. Special Education Workshop Series, Brown Bag Lunches, Parent Groups, and confidential appointments for individuals will resume with the new Special Needs Ombuds in December 2013.
Events sponsored by other organizations serving special needs children & families
Please note that these events are not sponsored or endorsed by the PTA, but are listed solely for informational purposes.
City of San Ramon Therapeutic Recreation
The City of San Ramon offers a variety of therapeutic recreational programs for children and adults with special needs. Please visit their website at http://www.sanramon.ca.gov/parks/recreation_guide/index.htm
RADD (Recreational Activities for the Developmentally Disabled)
Sponsored by the Town of Danville. The program provides a range of activities from meals out at local restaurants, bowling, trips to the theater, basketball, and baseball games for people with disabilities ages 15 and up. These activities are on Friday nights and Saturdays. For a detailed schedule and registration form, go to the Town of Danville Parks & Recreation Activity Guide.
Special Olympics offers numerous sports programs throughout the year, free of charge to athletes. In order to participate, the athlete must have a current application/medical form on file with Special Olympics. The application form is valid for three years. If you would like to register your child, contact Robert at email@example.com at the Special Olympics office. He can send you an application and/or let you know if your child's application is current.
Special Olympics Sports – San Ramon Parks and Community Services Registration
The City of San Ramon together with Special Olympics Northern California provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic style sports for persons eight years of age and older with developmental disabilities. All sports training and competition opportunities are free for Special Olympic Athletes. Special Olympic medical forms must be on file prior to the first day of training. Sports offered include basketball, bocce, swimming, bowling.
Through games and activities our athletes will build self-esteem, develop motor skills, learn proper stretching and basic rules of the sports. The program is a collaboration between the Parks and Community Services Department and the CSU East Bay Recreation Department. (www.sanramon.ca.gov/Parks/recreation_guide/index.htm)