By Elayne Pearson, C.A.S, Special Needs Preparedness Specialist
I love the classic Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” But let’s be honest, December can be a difficult month for most of us – with all the juggling, jingling, jangling, and jostling of added obligations and opportunities. For people affected by a challenging special need or disability, it can be extremely difficult. Between the extra-long list of “to-dos” for everyone, the sugary treats, decorating, shopping, junk food, programs, and family gatherings — the toll exacted from individuals with fragile systems can feel like pure drudgery instead of pure joy. School teachers often observe goal-digression in students instead of progress and harmony. So, if you’re a professional, feel free to pass this little piece on to similar parents of special needs loved ones.
In the past, I wanted my children to have abundant experiences and fond memories. Especially our three older neurotypical daughters, because their little sister, Heidi Ann (our cute and complex daughter with Down syndrome and autism), needed each of us to make many sacrifices on several levels for her well-being. We did what we could, but Miss Heidi did not appreciate all the crazy holly and jolly added into her well-ordered life consisting of Disney videos, food, and school. No, the crowded dance programs, gift wrapping clutter, and all those annoying red and green things all over our house were not welcomed in her world! Pressure and stress emanated from everyone, and she could feel it.
One of the sweetest (and easiest!) techniques I found to calm down my daughter with Down syndrome and autism in December was driving around together in our car. Heidi loved looking at the various neighborhood Christmas lights in the evening, and I did too. I will never forget one precious night when, as a teenager, she sweetly murmured quietly from the backseat of my car, “Cwithmus, Mom.” Most car rides with her had been painfully silent over the recent years, and there she was, pointing out her Christmas observations, and verbally including me in her thoughts. This was an enormous gift to me. It was huge.
Tears of gratitude streamed down my face, and I quietly thanked Heidi and kept driving. She still hadn’t regained her previous social goals of offering hugs or kisses to her loving parents at that point, so I kept it low-key. I knew I needed to keep simplifying our lives—so I could balance needed consistency in her vital areas, like enough sleep, health appointments of cranial sacral therapy, and daily vitamins, herbs, and homeopathy drops. Though she didn’t acknowledge it, I knew Heidi loved it when I rubbed a couple of drops of essential oils of frankincense and myrrh on her feet at bedtime. I was content to see small baby steps of progress as my Christmas gift.
Today, these amazing individuals with special needs still need reasonable routine, especially during the holidays. My sincere advice parents? Remember your self-care, say “no thanks” occasionally, clear away the clutter, and try to stay sane.
Want more ideas and inspiration? I’m on Instagram at @hiddentreasuresofhealth. Well, it’s been good to connect with you. Warmly, Elayne Pearson (and Miss Heidi, too.)