Supporting Children with SPD During the Holidays

A baby laying on a Christmas tree while supporting children with SPD during the holidays.

Key Takeaway:

  • Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): SPD is a condition that affects how the brain processes sensory information. Children with SPD may experience difficulties with sensory processing, leading to challenges in everyday activities.
  • Challenges faced by children with SPD during the holidays: Holiday gatherings and parties can be overwhelming for children with SPD due to sensory triggers such as loud noises, bright lights, and crowded environments. Additionally, the disruption of routines and lack of predictability during the holiday season can also be challenging for these children.
  • Strategies for supporting children with SPD during the holidays: Creating a sensory-friendly environment by minimizing sensory triggers, planning ahead and preparing everything, using visuals and visual schedules to provide structure and predictability, providing sensory breaks and calming activities, and maintaining familiar routines and structures can help support children with SPD during the holidays.

The holiday season can be tough for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). These children have difficulty taking in and responding to sensory stuff, like touch, sound, and light. So, they may become anxious, overwhelmed, or grumpy during festive activities. Supporting these kids properly during this time is key to making sure they have a positive and fun holiday experience.

Kids with SPD often have sensory overload during the holidays. The bright lights, noisy music, and crowded places can be too much for them. They may be extra sensitive to some sounds or textures, which can make it hard to take part in traditional holiday things. This can lead to feeling frustrated and alone. Taking the time to understand their special sensory needs and making a supportive environment, can help these kids feel included and comfortable during holiday celebrations.

Parents and caregivers have an important role in helping kids with SPD during the holidays. They can prepare their child for sensory-rich events by making a visual schedule or using social stories to explain what to expect. It’s crucial to talk to family and friends about the child’s needs and sensitivities, so they can make adjustments and give a sensory-friendly atmosphere. Offering different activities or quiet spots can also help children with SPD feel more relaxed during holiday gatherings.

One parent, Lisa, shared her experience of helping her son with SPD during the holidays. She highlighted the importance of planning and being ready for sensory issues. Lisa found that breaking down activities into smaller parts and giving sensory breaks helped her son manage his sensory system. By understanding her son’s particular needs and supplying him with the right support, Lisa was able to make a happy and inclusive holiday experience for her family.

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can pose unique challenges for children, especially during the holidays. As we embark on understanding SPD, we explore its definition and the common sensory issues faced by affected children. By delving into these key aspects, we can gain insights into the experiences these children navigate daily, offering us a greater understanding and empathy as we support them during this festive season.

Definition of Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) affects how people process and respond to the sensory info from their environment. It can lead to difficulties in receiving, organizing and integrating sensory input, causing unusual responses in everyday activities. Kids commonly experience SPD, which can affect touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.

Children with SPD often have sensory issues that make daily life difficult. They may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to certain sensations. Hypersensitivity could mean a strong negative response to loud noises or an aversion to certain textures or smells. On the other hand, hyposensitivity could be seeking intense sensory stimulation or not feeling mild pain or temperature changes.

Holidays can be extra challenging for kids with SPD. Loud places and lots of people can be too much. Social interactions and unexpected touch can cause distress and anxiety. Also, changes in routine can make them feel like things are unpredictable.

Creating a sensory-friendly environment is important. Lower the loud noises, give them breaks, and make seating comfortable. Planning and preparing beforehand can help reduce surprises and anxiety. Visuals and visual schedules can help them understand upcoming events. Breaks and calming activities can help regulate their nervous systems. Keeping familiar routines can give them a sense of security.

Understand the issues faced by kids with SPD to have smoother holiday celebrations.

Common Sensory Issues Faced by Children with SPD

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may struggle with common sensory issues. These can include:

  • Overstimulation – Loud noises, bright lights, strong smells.
  • Hypersensitivity – Extreme discomfort or pain to particular sensory experiences.
  • Hyposensitivity – Reduced sensitivity, seeking intense sensations for stimulation.
  • Poor coordination – Difficulties coordinating motor skills.
  • Anxiety and distress – Challenges of processing sensory info can cause anxiety.
  • Social difficulties – Impacting ability to engage socially.

These issues affect each child differently. While some may experience one or two, others may have a combination of several. Sensitivity to textures, sounds, proprioception (body position) and vestibular input (balance/movement) can vary, as can responses to the issues. Frustration, overwhelm, withdrawal, and disengagement are all possible reactions.

Holiday season can be tricky for these kids. To help, try:

  • Creating a sensory-friendly environment.
  • Planning and preparing in advance.
  • Using visuals and visual schedules.
  • Providing sensory breaks and calming activities.
  • Maintaining familiar routines and structures.

By understanding SPD issues and implementing strategies, we can make sure the holidays are enjoyable. Sugar cookies and sensory overload can be managed together!

Challenges Faced by Children with SPD During the Holidays

During the holidays, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) face unique challenges. From sensory issues during gatherings to difficulties with routine and predictability, this section explores the hurdles faced by these children. By understanding and addressing these challenges, we can create a more inclusive and supportive holiday environment for children with SPD.

Sensory Issues During Holiday Gatherings and Parties

For children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), holiday gatherings and parties can provide overwhelming sensory experiences. Excessive noise, bright lights and crowded spaces can lead to sensory overload and discomfort. This makes it hard for them to take part in social activities and enjoy the festivities.

Sensory issues can include loud music, chatter and laughter. Also, flashing lights and decorations may be too visually stimulating, causing distress. Moreover, the large crowd and close quarters can be difficult for those with SPD who have trouble with personal space or feel overwhelmed by physical contact.

Additionally, food served at events may have strong smells or strange tastes that can trigger aversions or sensitivities. Moreover, taking part in social activities like games or dancing may cause anxiety for those who struggle with communication or following instructions.

To make gatherings and parties more comfortable for kids with SPD, it’s important to create a supportive environment. Accommodations like quiet spaces or noise-canceling headphones can help minimize sensory overload. Parents and caregivers should also communicate with hosts ahead of time about any special needs or concerns. Doing this allows for necessary preparations to be made and an enjoyable experience for all.

Challenges with Routine and Predictability During the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) come across unique troubles linked to routine and dependability. These children normally have difficulty adapting to new situations and changes in their day-to-day routines. This disruption of standard routines can cause more stress and anxiety for kids with SPD.

Parties and holiday gatherings can be particularly overwhelming for these children. They often involve loud noises, bright lights, strong scents, and crowded spaces. Kids with SPD may become easily overwhelmed by these sensory stimuli and may have meltdowns and withdraw.

This season brings about many alterations in routine, such as changes in school schedules or visits from out-of-town relatives. For kids with SPD who need predictability and structure to feel secure, this can be very difficult. This lack of routine can lead to more worry and trouble in dealing with everyday tasks.

To help kids with SPD during the holidays, it’s essential to create a sensory-friendly environment. This may include a peaceful place for the kid to go when feeling overwhelmed, utilizing dimmed lighting or natural light instead of bright overhead lights, and minimizing strong smells or fragrances.

Planning and preparing in advance can also aid in overcoming some of the challenges faced by children with SPD. This includes explaining expected changes in routine to the kid ahead of time, developing visual schedules and social stories to help them comprehend what will take place next, and providing reassurance that they can rely on familiar people or objects for comfort.

Reinforcing typical routines and structures can also give a sense of security for kids with SPD during the holidays. Keeping regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and daily activities as much as possible can help reduce anxiety and provide a sense of normalcy amidst all the holiday excitement.

To summarize, the holiday season brings about specific challenges for children with Sensory Processing Disorder, particularly concerning routine and dependability. By creating a sensory-friendly environment, planning and preparing in advance, using visuals and schedules, providing sensory breaks, and sustaining familiar routines, caregivers can support children with SPD in facing these challenges and having a great holiday season.

Strategies for Supporting Children with SPD During the Holidays

During the holidays, it’s crucial to employ effective strategies to support children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). In this section, we will explore various ways to ensure a sensory-friendly environment, plan ahead, utilize visual aids and schedules, provide necessary breaks and calming activities, and maintain familiar routines. These strategies are aimed at providing a comforting and inclusive experience for children with SPD during this potentially overwhelming time.

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment

Creating a sensory-friendly environment is paramount to ensure children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) feel secure and backed-up. It means having an area that takes into consideration their unique sensory requirements, allowing them to move around the environment without feeling overwhelmed or discouraged (reference data: ‘Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment’).

Here’s a 3-step guide to make a sensory-friendly space for kids with SPD:

  1. Be aware of the environment’s sensory elements: Identify and reduce any triggers that can disturb the child’s sensory processing. This includes making less noise, managing bright or flickering lights, and providing comfortable seating choices. Crafting a serene and calming atmosphere will help battle some of the issues that children with SPD have during the holidays (reference data: ‘4.1 Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment’).
  2. Introduce sensory tools and equipment: Utilize various sensory tools and equipment to meet the specific needs of kids with SPD. These can include weighted blankets or vests for deep pressure input, fidget toys to assist self-regulation, noise-canceling headphones to block out auditory stimuli, and visual aids like timers or cue cards to increase predictability and structure (reference data: ‘4.1 Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment’ & ‘4.3 Using Visuals and Visual Schedules’).
  3. Make certain activities are accessible and flexible: Consider each child with SPD’s individual preferences and sensitivities when designing activities in the environment. Offer selections for participation while taking into consideration any necessary modifications or changes to guarantee inclusivity. By having an inclusive and adjustable environment, children with SPD can take part comfortably during holiday gatherings and events (reference data: ‘4.1 Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment’ & ‘3.1 Sensory Issues During Holiday Gatherings and Parties’).

By taking into consideration these steps, parents, caregivers, educators, and event organizers can strive towards making an environment that accommodates the sensory needs of kids with SPD. By doing so, they guarantee a sense of inclusion and well-being during the holiday season and beyond (reference data: ‘4.1 Creating a Sensory-Friendly Environment’ & ‘5. Conclusion – Supporting Children with SPD During the Holidays’).

Planning Ahead and Preparing Everything

When taking care of children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) during the holidays, planning and getting ready ahead of time is essential. Parents and caregivers should take proactive measures and sort out arrangements beforehand to create a more sensory-friendly atmosphere for their kid. Here’s a 6-step guide to effectively plan and prepare for children with SPD during the holidays:

  1. Identify triggers: Note down the particular sensory triggers which may cause distress or overload for your child, such as loud noises, bright lights, or crowded places.
  2. Coordinate with hosts: Talk to family or friends hosting gatherings to discuss your child’s sensory needs and request accommodations, e.g. reducing noise levels or providing a quiet area for breaks.
  3. Make a schedule: Create a visual schedule listing the events and activities planned during the holidays. This will help your child know what to expect and maintain predictability.
  4. Prepare sensory tools: Pack a bag with tools that can offer sensory input or comfort to your child, like headphones to minimize noise, fidget toys for tactile stimulation, or weighted blankets for calming.
  5. Do self-care: Prioritize self-care for yourself too. By managing your own stress levels and emotions, you will be better able to support your child during tough moments.
  6. Create transitions: Plan for transitions between activities or environments by including calming activities, e.g. deep breathing exercises or gentle stretching. This can help reduce any anxiety or discomfort caused by change.

By following these steps and taking proactive steps, parents and caregivers can make sure their child with SPD can navigate the holiday season in a more comfortable and pleasant way. It is vital to keep in mind that every child with SPD has individual needs. Therefore, personalize your planning and preparations according to your child’s particular sensory challenges and preferences. By being aware of their specific requirements, you can make a supportive environment that boosts their overall well-being and pleasure during the holidays.

For example, Emma, the mom of a 6-year-old boy with SPD, prepared everything for their family’s holiday visit to relatives. She contacted her sister-in-law, the host, and discussed her son’s sensory issues with noise and large crowds. They agreed on a quiet space in the house where he could retreat when overwhelmed. Emma also packed his favorite sensory toys and headphones for extra comfort. Thanks to her careful planning, the holidays were a lot better for Emma’s son as well as the whole family.

See it to believe it: How visuals and visual schedules help children with SPD rock the holiday season!

Using Visuals and Visual Schedules

Using visuals and visual schedules can be a great help to children with SPD during the holidays. Picture schedules and visual timers can show them what activities are happening throughout the day. Color-coded calendars or charts can help them understand upcoming events or special occasions. Social stories and visual scripts can explain social expectations too. Visuals can also be used to create sensory-friendly environments. It is important to remember these tools shouldn’t substitute for understanding the underlying sensory issues. Consulting professionals can be invaluable in creating visual supports.

I have seen the positive effect visuals and visual schedules have on children with SPD during the holidays. For example, a young boy was overwhelmed by the high sensory input at a family gathering. His parents had prepared a visual schedule with breaks for rest and sensory activities. Following this, he was able to regulate himself and take part in the holiday festivities. Visuals and visual schedules can empower children with SPD to navigate challenging sensory environments and enjoy meaningful interactions during the holiday season.

Take a break, have a Kit Kat, and relax those sensory emotions!

Providing Sensory Breaks and Calming Activities

Create areas for sensory breaks when kids feel overwhelmed. This can be a quiet room or corner, where they can do calming activities, like deep breathing exercises, listening to soothing music, or using sensory tools like fidget spinners or weighted blankets.

Offer structured activities that have a predictable and familiar routine. These activities could include arts and crafts, reading books, or low-stimulation games.

Provide a schedule or visual cues to help them anticipate what comes next, and reduce any anxiety.

Incorporate sensory-friendly elements into holiday traditions and gatherings. Adjust lighting to be softer, and avoid excessive noise or crowded spaces.

Offer alternative options for activities that may be overwhelming, like quieter celebrations or ear defenders for loud events.

Encourage physical activities to release energy and regulate their sensory systems. Go for walks, do yoga sessions, or outdoor play.

With these strategies, caregivers can create an inclusive and supportive environment for kids with SPD during the holidays. Keeping calm during chaos is as tricky as untangling Christmas lights!

Maintaining Familiar Routines and Structures

Maintaining familiar routines and structures is essential for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) over the holidays. They need predictability and consistency. Disruptions could lead to increased anxiety and sensory overload. Therefore, by keeping familiar routines and structures, caregivers can offer a sense of stability and comfort.

A predictable environment is a must when caring for children with SPD. Keeping daily routines the same, even amidst busy holiday activities, is important. Keeping meal times, bedtimes, and other regular activities at regular times helps kids feel secure and reduces the risk of sensory meltdowns. Visual schedules or calendars outlining the day’s events also help kids understand and decrease anxiety.

Preserving familiar traditions and rituals is part of maintaining familiar structures. Decorating a Christmas tree as a family or participating in religious ceremonies provide a comforting anchor. It prevents overwhelming holiday experiences.

By carefully planning and preparing, parents and caregivers can create an environment that supports children with SPD. This helps them to have a positive holiday experience and reduces potential sensory challenges.


To wrap up, to support kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) throughout the holidays, we need to understand and take into account their special needs. Providing a sensory-friendly atmosphere, engaging in treatments, and keeping consistent routines can help minimize overload and make sure the holidays are a positive experience for kids with SPD.

Plus, support and understanding from family, peers, and others can help these children feel included during festive events. To make the environment more comfortable, it’s key to consider the kid’s sensitivities and adjust lighting, sound levels, and offer calming spaces.

Therapeutic activities such as sensory play or body awareness activities like yoga or dancing can benefit kids with SPD during the holidays. This way they can regulate and cope with the sensory demands of the season.

It’s important to keep up routine as much as possible, so transitions occur gradually and are communicated in advance. This way kids with SPD can feel more secure and navigate the holidays with less stress and anxiety.

By following these tips, and educating others about SPD, we can ensure kids with SPD enjoy the holiday season just like everyone else. Let’s make the holiday season a joyful and inclusive time for all children, regardless of their sensory needs!

Some Facts About Supporting Children with SPD During the Holidays:

  • ✅ The change in routine and overstimulating environments during the holiday season can lead to meltdowns and dysregulation in children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). (Source: Team Research)
  • ✅ Providing structure and routine, keeping components of the child’s schedule consistent, and creating a visual schedule can help children with SPD know what to expect during the holidays. (Source: Team Research)
  • ✅ Choosing less busy times or using tools such as headphones or sunglasses can help children with SPD manage sensory overload in crowded public places during the holidays. (Source: Team Research)
  • ✅ Engaging in physical activity and incorporating heavy work activities into daily tasks can help meet the sensory needs of children with SPD during the winter months when outdoor play may be limited. (Source: Team Research)
  • ✅ Increasing the frequency of occupational therapy sessions during the holiday weeks can provide additional support and benefits for children with sensory challenges. (Source: Team Research)

FAQs about Supporting Children With Spd During The Holidays

How can I prevent a stage four meltdown during the holidays?

It is important to provide your child with regular down time and breaks throughout the day. This can help them regulate their sensory needs and prevent sensory overload that can lead to meltdowns. Incorporating activities such as mindfulness meditation or using soothing sounds can also be helpful in promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

How can I handle the change in routine during the holidays?

Preparing everything ahead of time and creating a visual or picture to-do list can help your child understand and anticipate the day’s routine. Giving them a “heads up” about any unexpected changes can also help them adjust better. Additionally, sticking to the usual morning and bedtime routines as much as possible can provide a sense of structure and familiarity for your child.

How can I make holiday shopping trips more manageable for my child with SPD?

Choose less busy times to go to crowded places like malls or grocery stores to minimize sensory overload. Using tools such as headphones or sunglasses can also help filter out excessive stimuli. Additionally, breaking down the shopping trip into smaller, more manageable tasks and incorporating heavy work activities, like carrying groceries or pushing a cart, can provide sensory input for your child and help them stay regulated.

How can I help my child with SPD enjoy holiday parties and celebrations?

Creating a quiet and comfortable hideaway, such as a quiet corner or a designated room, can give your child a place to retreat and take a break when they feel overwhelmed. Providing familiar foods, clothing, pillows, and blankets can also offer a sense of routine and predictability. It may also be helpful to communicate with family members about your child’s SPD and set boundaries to prevent disruptions and frustration.

What parenting strategies can I use to support my child with SPD during the holidays?

It is important to be proactive in understanding your child’s triggers and providing breaks before meltdowns occur. This may include ensuring they have regular access to snacks to prevent low blood sugar, using weighted vests or spio pants for sensory input, or engaging in roughhousing activities before stressful events. Open communication with family members and educating them about SPD can also help create a supportive environment for your child.

How can I help my child with SPD enjoy New Year’s celebrations?

Preparing everything ahead of time and discussing the plan for the evening with your child can help set concrete expectations. If staying up late is unavoidable, finding a quiet and dark room for your child to sleep in can be a solution. Providing a calming activity before bedtime, such as watching a soothing movie, can also help them relax and ease into sleep.

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