Sensory Tips for Christmas
Some useful tips and tricks to help someone with sensory sensitivity during the festive season.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but for adults and children with sensory challenges it can be incredibly difficult.
Common activities over the festive season such as walking through busy shopping centres crowded with impatient Christmas shoppers, attending carols at the local park, or lining up for Santa photos with strangers, can have a negative impact on people who are sensitive to noise, lights, temperatures and other unpredictable elements.
How can we help people with sensory sensitivities enjoy these experiences without getting completely overwhelmed? Here are some tips to help.
- PREPARATION IS KEY
Preparation is so important! Knowing what to expect or what the experience might be like can greatly help reduce stress and anxiety. Showing pictures of the experience can also help – for example, if you are going to a family member’s house for a party, look back in your phone for pictures of last year’s party.
2. CREATE A SCHEDULE
Creating a clear and easy-to-follow schedule that incorporates as much of your family members’ usual day-to-day activities as possible. Special activities in the lead-up to Christmas that may trigger sensory issues can be ticked off with stickers as a way of helping someone with sensory challenges feel safe and in control.
3. CHECK FOR A SENSORY-FRIENDLY OPTION
With some festive season events, there may be sensory friendly options to experience popular holiday activities. For example, sensory friendly Santa photos or shopping times feature dimmed lights, specially trained staff, open doors for easy exit, reduced sound levels, and designated quiet spaces. With many Santa photos and festive season events able to be booked online, it is easier than ever to contact the organisers beforehand to see if these options are available.
4. IDENTIFY A QUIET SPACE AND PLAN AN EXIT
If you are in a public place, there may be an area already identified for people with sensory issues to take a break or have some quiet time. If you aren’t sure, a quick phone call or Google search may help. If you are going to someone’s house, maybe there is an extra room upstairs that could be identified as a quiet break space, if needed. This ties back in to preparation – it’s always good to have a backup plan if the experience proves to be too much.
5. INCORPORATE SOME SENSORY FUN!
Just because someone has a sensory sensitivity, it doesn’t mean they can’t have fun during the Christmas holiday period. Search online for Christmas-themed squishy toys, stress balls, fidget spinners, or noise cancelling headphones.