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:
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!