Calming and Organizing Strategies for Children with Special Needs

Strategies to calm and organize a child with special needs during this stressful time.

We know that children with special needs have unique challenges making it difficult for them to understand the emotions and sense of sadness going on around them.  Here are some suggestions to help you manage: 

  • To the extent possible, create a calm household environment and continue with familiar activities/routines.
    • Don’t sweat the small stuff, give yourself permission to simplify your holiday traditions, and “call it a day” if everything is not bought, decorated, or baked. 
    • Take time out from the hustle and bustle – spend quiet, interactive family time or schedule play dates with familiar friends.
    • Doing household chores together which incorporate pushing – pulling – lifting – carrying may also help reduce tension.
    • Try to keep mealtimes and bedtimes consistent.
    • Everyone getting cozy on the couch with the bedroom blankets and pillows watching a movie might be a relaxing evening activity.
  • Perhaps create a quiet, cozy, nook-like space for your child to retreat when needed.  If safe, let the child use this cozy pillow pile to watch TV, read a book, listen to music, play a video game, complete a puzzle, etc.  
  • You know child’s typical sensory needs.  Please remember to create increased opportunities for your child to access these sensory activities.  This could range from calming and rhythmic music while rocking in a chair to intense physical activity (yes, bundle them up and get them outside to a playground, riding a bike, raking, or shoveling; even a long walk with the whole family might be helpful).   
  • Please don’t forget to take care of your own sensory needs as you set the mood of the house.  Also, you will be better able to manage your child’s needs if you are meeting your own needs first. 
    • Ask yourself:  Do you need “heavy work” or “deep touch pressure” to get calm and organized?  If so, how about a massage, a workout, a run, a yoga class, etc.?    
    • Don’t forget to use friends for support by setting up play dates so that the adults can rotate and each parent “gets a little break”.
    • Try to remember to watch TV with calm, positive, age appropriate shows.  You can take turns watching the news in another room where you know the child will not have access to that content.
    • Try to be sure that children cannot overhear adult conversations – find a separate place for you to process the stress and emotions with other adults.   

So simplify, get back to basics, reduce your plans and concentrate on typical weekly routines, and breathe (yes, deep breathing does help).   And, if you feel that you need specific suggestions for your child, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can assure you have the resources you need to successfully navigate this distressing time. 

If you would like to share these tips, please view the attached printable version.

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