December 10, 2013
Twinkling lights, Christmas carolers, freshly baked gingerbread cookies. While these common holiday sights, sounds and smells bring joy and happiness to many, they can also lead to sensory overload in people with special needs.
Many children and adults with special needs, such as autism, are sensitive to noise, lights and other stimuli. As a result, a festive holiday environment may cause unintentional stress for your loved one.
To help you and your loved ones have a happy and stress-free holiday, our nursing team in North Brunswick, NJ, has compiled the following list of sensory-friendly tips.
- Sight – Flashing lights can cause irritation and may trigger a seizure, so avoid these forms of stimulation. People dressed up as Santa, elves or snowmen may also frighten children. To help prepare for the holiday experience, share photos of the characters with your child in advance.
- Sound – Keep a set of headphones handy to block out noise. Holiday music can be loud and disconcerting to some children and adults. Plan ahead to designate a quiet place to retreat to, as needed, during the festivities.
- Smell – Be aware that scents and fragrances can trigger asthma and reactive airway events. Therefore, it is best to avoid the perfume section of stores in shopping malls. Children and adults with sensory aversion, in particular, can also be overwhelmed with heavy scents from candles, perfumes and evergreen trees.
- Taste – Allergy and anaphylactic precautions should be considered with exposure to holiday parties and food preparation. Children and adults with known allergies should carry their EpiPen with them during holidays. Prepare ahead for diet restrictions or G-tube feeds.
- Touch – Holiday costumes and attire should be comfortable for your loved one. Warm winter clothes may be irritating due to winter fabric contents such as wool, tags in collars and fabric finishes. Prewash new clothes to avoid irritants, and remove tags to lessen itchiness and irritation.
While some holiday traditions may need to be modified to meet your loved one’s needs and expectations, everyone will still be able to enjoy a very merry holiday season.