Thanksgiving Day Game Plan to Combat Sensory Overload
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Thanksgiving is full of wonderful things. The smell of food fills the air. We get to eat that wonderful smelling food. We get to catch up with family members. Kids get to run around and play with cousins. Pie (because honestly, it deserves its own category). And what’s thanksgiving without football and the die-hard fans cheering at the TV? We all have our own fun traditions. For most of us, this is not just a feast of food. It’s a feast for all of our senses. But for kids with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), it feels less like a sensory feast and more like sensory overload. All those things that we view as positive, the scents in the air, the food, the happy chatter of family, overwhelm these sensory sensitive kids. And sensory overload can lead to tantrums, resistance and all out meltdowns.
Making A Game Plan
You obviously can’t predict or avoid every possible offender, but just like your favorite Thanksgiving football teams, you can assemble a game plan to help your family make your Thanksgiving party a win.
Whether you’re hosting the party or going elsewhere, make sure your sensory kid has the right tools to help calm their system. Weighted vests, blankets, stress balls, little games, and headphones are a few items that can help keep your sensory kid grounded. What you bring depends on your child. By now you’ve probably discovered what activities help calm them or distract them from the stress, but if you haven’t try some of the ones you see here in “How to Keep Kids Quiet in Class – Sensory Activities.” Just adjust those activities to fit the party setting.
Food They Like
If your child has sensitivities to food texture or flavor, come prepared with foods they like. You can pack a meal special for them or not make a big deal out of it and volunteer to contribute a dish that suits them. Then you can load up their plate with only the things they like without drawing attention to their special needs.
Explain to Family
If your situation is severe, you can give your guests a heads-up. I strongly encourage this step to be done ahead of time and not in front of your child. It’s better not to single them out or draw attention to those behaviors. It might not seem like they’re listening, but I guarantee they catch on to more than you think. Explaining beforehand gives you an opportunity to say, “hey, we have some special circumstances. Don’t worry, though, we have it handled.” This option is especially important if you bring a special meal or some other circumstance where lack of understanding could cause hurt feelings or further uncomfortable situations.
Talk to your child beforehand too. Think of it as a pregame pep talk. Give your sensory kid a rundown of what they can expect at the party so they’re not taken off guard when they get there. Let them know specifics too. Who is going to be there? What activities are they going to have? Where are you going? Make sure to keep your tone positive and light here. It’s easy to slip into a negative tone that portrays that they need to brace themselves for an unpleasant experience. This can cause undue stress and can possibly even cause them to not enjoy themselves. Instead, try to play it up and make it sound exciting and fun.
Make sure you have a clear set of expectations and special game plan if those expectations aren’t met. It can be hard to follow through when you’re under the scrutiny of others that might not understand, but it’s important not to let bad behavior slide. Letting it slide or giving attention to behavior that shouldn’t be acknowledged, just gives them the green light that poor behavior gives them what they want.
The Ultimate Game Plan
It’s also important to set up a game plan for communication. Let them know that they can come to you and let you know they’re feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed. This helps them know that you have their back and will help them in any way you can to find a solution. And because communication goes both ways, let them know that you’ll be watching for signs of distress and they should be prepared that you might intervene and try to help.
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03 Aug 2017 - Parent's Corner