Holidays are coming!! – by Kellie Jennings, Jigsaw Occupational Therapy

Christmas holidays can be an amazingly fun time! Parties, decorations, songs, tasty treats and even smells fill our environment. For most of us, this is what makes the festive period so special. However, these are the exact same things that can bring on anxiety, meltdowns and sensory overload in many children, especially if they struggle with sensory processing disorder.

The combination of excited energy and heightened anxiety can all be a little too much to tolerate. We’re all probably too aware how the Christmas holidays can overwhelm many neurotypical children and even some adults without sensory processing challenges attached. It’s important our children are enjoy the festive period, despite their challenges. It would be easy to hide away at home, avoid the Christmas chaos, and come back to real life after New Years, but It’s important to celebrate the Christmas holidays, and you can do it in your own way!

During the holidays, a lot of routines are thrown out the window. We’re all subjected to vast changes over this period; familiar environments made unfamiliar with decorations which also bring new smells, sights and tactile experiences. There is often an increase in social demands and it is likely that we ourselves become slightly frantic with all that needs planning and organising over the Christmas period. All of which can often be unsettling and overwhelming to the child who seeks routine and familiarity. Try to prepare everything for your child ahead of time. As Christmas draws in and those changes start to come into action why not try creating a visual Christmas timetable for your child. Detail the various changes and offer them advanced warning. Southpaw’s Jumbo Touch Screen Timer is a brilliant way to allow your child to visually see how long they need to wait for an exciting event to take place, or how much longer a more challenging situation or activity will last until its over.

Before embarking on such festive activities set aside some time to load your child up with the sensory input they require. Have some fun racing around on Southpaw’s Scooter Board, for those vestibular and movement seekers this is a great way to provide increased movement feedback with a calming and proprioceptive element, don’t forget to encourage them to self-propel to get in that heavy muscle work. Follow with some deep pressure squashes under Southpaw’s Peanut Roll, or hide and seek in the Southpaw Resistance Tunnel, both of which will provide increased proprioceptive feedback to regulate and calm their sensory systems.

The additional noise and increase in family members around the house can cause uncertainty, upset or stress. Your child may benefit from being able to retreat to a quiet space of their own, it’s a good idea to try to prepare an escape for your child to help them feel comforted and secure again. The new MohuComfort is a blanket comforter made of soft textures to calm and soothe. Include the MohuComfort blanket in a pop-up tent to create a relaxing hideaway, or try Southpaw’s Sensory Shaker, an oversized bag that, when filled with balls, provides tactile input as well as vestibular input for your child as they sit inside and you shake them up. Without movement, the Sensory Shaker provides a small, enclosed space for your child to retreat.

For those trips to spend the day with the family as they host Christmas this year, a must have travel item for your child’s backpack over Christmas is the Sensory Weight and Resistance Kit or the Sensory Backpack Kit, they include a range of various sensory stimulating and calming items so children will have sensory stimulating tools with them whenever they need them. Tackle those overwhelming smells of Christmas trees and rich smelling festive foods by allowing your child to escape to there room with Southpaw’s Aroma Diffuser. It’s a beautiful and modern designed Aroma diffuser that creates the perfect ambience. It produces a cool, magical and scented mist. It comes complete with a mood light, adjustable mist volume, colour selection mode and a night mode. Just place a few drops of oil in the diffuser with a small amount of water and allow your child to enjoy the benefit of their favourite essential oil to damped those unfamiliar smells. The Calming Essential Oils Set offers a selection of five different oils to trial.

Finally, let’s not forget that for some Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, if you or your family are stuck for Christmas gift ideas, don’t forget that Southpaw offer a range of interactive sensory toys and games, the Dress Up Dragon is a fantastic fine motor toy with a lovely tactile sensory element. The Geo Blocksis an exciting and colourful gift to develop matching and fine motor skills. Geo Blocks includes 6 double sided work cards and a 224 piece set of Geo Blocks in various shapes and colours. Children will enjoy matching the Geo Blocks to the shapes on the cards and pushing them into place. A great addition to any stocking filler ready for your messy play table is the Happy Senso, a gel with wonderful multi-sensory effects. It’s dermatologically tested formula gives you a nourishing and cooling effect, which feels like “popping candy” on the skin. By using this in fun and creative ways can allow you to smell, hear, feel and see it which can create wonderful moments of contact, sparkle and enthusiasm.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!

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