Remember: Not Everyone is Holly and Jolly at Christmas

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Christmas is generally a wonderful time with family and friends, gatherings and fun.
But we should always consider what it may mean for some of those that find it hard to deal with the holidays.

There are many that struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), or an overload to sensory input (sight, sound, touch, taste) that causes discomfort and anxiety.  With the chaos surrounding Christmas time, we need to consider accommodating those that struggle with SPD.

Here are a few tips to consider for your family and loved ones with SPD during Christmas:

  • Acclimate to their needs. If someone with SPD has specific eating habits or may very likely reject Christmas dinner somewhere else, you should feel encouraged to have a meal specifically catered to him or her.
  • Arrange the personal atmosphere that best suits their needs. Noise canceling headphones are a good idea, or if they use an iPad or other electronic device to serve as distraction, it would be in your best interest to have it on hand if you are going out to visit family or friends.
  • Limit visitors with time limits so as not to overwhelm your loved one with SPD, or even just to have Christmas with your immediate family to keep things simple.
  • Be mindful of things that impact the senses; try to keep aromas, noises or music, and lights as minimal as possible.
  • It’s common for those with sensory processing challenges to have difficulty with new and unfamiliar foods.  One suggestion is to include Christmas food into meals during the lead up to Christmas Day.  This way the food is no longer new.
  • Presents can be a super exciting part of Christmas, but can also be stressful for some.  If your loved one has sensitivities to certain fabrics, or strong preferences for clothing it can be helpful to let other gift givers know in advance.  Providing a ‘wish list’ can be helpful.
  • Noise gifts can also be a challenge for some, so, again it’s useful to make gift givers aware if this is the case.  Also, when opening presents that make noise, it can help to give the your loved one with SPD advanced warning of the sound.  It might be that someone else has a noisy gift you need to be mindful of.
  • Some children find the excitement of a surprise very overwhelming.  If this is the case for your loved one, it can be helpful to open presents over a longer period.  For some, it helps to let them know in advance that their preferred gift is coming on Christmas day.

This was what I was trying to capture in my song “Home for Christmas”; in taking the perspective of those with difficulties during the holidays.   I hope it captures some of the anxiety people with SPD have over the holidays, and I hope that this short blog brings this to your attention the next time you are celebrating the holidays.

Of course, Happy Holidays to you all and see you in the New Year!

Frank Babic

c/o High Park Society

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