Creating a Sensory-Friendly Holiday Environment for Neurodiverse Family Members

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Holiday Environment for Neurodiverse Family Members

The holiday season is often filled with bright lights, loud noises, and a flurry of activities - all of which can be overwhelming for neurodiverse family members. So, how can we make the holidays more sensory-friendly for our loved ones? Let's delve into it.

Understanding Sensory Needs

Firstly, it's important to understand that many neurodiverse individuals have sensory sensitivities. These can range from sensitivity to noise, light, touch, or even certain smells1.

Creating a Safe Space

One of the most effective ways to create a sensory-friendly environment is by setting up a quiet, comfortable space where your neurodiverse family member can retreat if they become overwhelmed2.

This space should be free of bright lights and loud noises, and perhaps equipped with calming elements like soft blankets, soothing music, or fidget toys.

Planning Sensory-Friendly Activities

When planning holiday activities, remember to include sensory-friendly options. For example, if you're decorating a Christmas tree, consider using soft, non-glittery ornaments for those who are sensitive to touch or light3.

Or, if you're playing holiday music, keep the volume at a level that's comfortable for everyone.

Inclusive Holiday Traditions

Modify traditions so that everyone can participate in their own way. For instance, if a family member finds gift-opening overwhelming, consider spreading it out over the day or even several days4.

A fantastic resource I'd recommend is AdaptEd's Neurodiversity Affirming Handbook. It provides practical strategies and tools to create an inclusive and supportive environment for neurodiverse individuals.

Here are some additional resources to help you create a sensory-friendly holiday environment:

  1. "Traveling Different: Vacation Strategies for Parents of the Anxious, the Inflexible, and the Neurodiverse"
  2. "Sensory Overload: Creating Autism-Friendly Areas In Theme Parks Through Universal Design Principles"
  3. "The experiences of parents/caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder at a sensory friendly theatre performance"
  4. "Creating Inclusive Experiences in Children's Museums for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder"

Remember, the goal is to make the holidays enjoyable for everyone. By taking these steps, we can ensure that our neurodiverse family members feel included, comfortable, and loved during this special time of year.

Happy holidays to you and your family!



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