The Christmas holidays give us a chance to break from routine, slow down and relax. However this can be very stressful for our kids with developmental challenges where routine forms a vital scaffold to their day. Any changes to routine or surprises can be very difficult for them to handle. Here are some tips that we have found can help prepare your child for the changes associated with this festive season.

  1. Decorations and lights can really transform a home, which can be terrifying to a child who struggles to make sense of their world. A visual calendar with a countdown before decorations go up and come back down can help take the stress out of the situation. Then get your child to help with the decorating.
  2. Use your visual calendar to countdown the remaining ‘sleeps’ before Christmas, talk to your child about what will happen on the day. Make sure they are aware of what is to come so they can feel prepared.
  3. Mark other events such as school holidays, or when they can expect family and friends to visit. This will reduce their anxiety levels and help with a smooth transition between holiday activities.
  4. Liaise with the school about preparations for the Christmas play, if there is a costume involved, try it on well in advance make sure your child is not oversensitive to any of the fabrics. Ear defenders can help with extra noise in the school hall.
  5. Some kids can’t fake delight at an unwanted gift so it’s often best to tell family what they would like in advance.
  6. Put batteries in new toys so they can be played with straight away.
  7. Avoid busy shopping spots – try to shop at quiet times or limit your exposure to well planned trips and rehearse the trip with your child before you leave home.
  8. Allow plenty of time for outings with your child to avoid having to rush, which can be very stressful for kids with challenges.
  9. Don’t overbook the kids, give them space and time to relax and process what is going on around them.

10. Social stories, books and movies can be a big help in preparing your child for the festive fun.

For those who want to plan a visit to Santa – Westport house has a wonderful Sensory Santa for kids who have difficulty with the hustle and bustle of a High Street visit, all details available on

Merry Christmas!