The Schedule: Making Christmas Easier for the Guest with Special Needs

Want to make Christmas easier for a guest with special needs? Consider your schedule and planned activities. Day 3 of a 5-day series.

Photo Credit: David Niblack,

The Schedule: Making Christmas Easier for the Guest with Special Needs

Welcome to Day 3 of “Making Christmas Easier for the Guest with Special Needs”! If you missed yesterday’s discussion about food, you can find it here.

Many families only see each other a couple of times a year, and Christmas is the big one. As a result, they try to cram as much into the few hours or days they have together as possible. This is exhausting for everyone, but for the guest with special needs, it can be impossible. When you’re planning your schedule for the holidays, trying to fit in everything is fine – as long as you understand that others have limitations you may not have. They may need some time away from the events you have so carefully planned. Please remember that it’s not personal. They understand and appreciate all the hard work you’ve gone to, but to be able to enjoy as much of the festivities as possible, they may need to take a break.

Packed days lead to exhaustion for everyone, but people with certain conditions may not be able to maintain the pace of a full schedule. Arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, immune deficiencies, and other disorders cause a greater than average amount of fatigue and endurance, leading people suffering from them with a very real need for a nap or time to rest. This is critical for them to be able to enjoy time with you later, and it’s not because they don’t want to participate in whatever is going on at the moment. They have learned through the years that pushing past a certain point means lengthy recovery time, which will kill the rest of the holiday season for them and the rest of the family.

Other people, like those with autism and social anxiety disorders as well as true introverts, need time away from the lovely chaos of scheduled activities to regroup and recharge. Having no downtime means emotional exhaustion and a possible meltdown. Without a chance to be alone for awhile, they don’t enjoy anything at all because they’re spending the whole time trying to act the way everyone expects them to even while they are falling apart inside.

While you don’t have to change your plans, acknowledging your guests’ needs and setting aside a place in the house where they know they can go to have some quiet time or take a nap would mean the world to them. Not only would it give them something they desperately need, but it would show a tremendous amount of compassion and understanding.

In other cases, the individual is able to participate in the planned activities, but he just needs to know what’s coming next so he is mentally prepared. Share your plans with the family so that everyone knows what happens when and can take whatever steps are necessary for each family member’s comfort level.

Again, communication is key.

Here’s what others have to say about this topic:

“I need to know exactly what to expect. Cookies after a church service are nice, but it will lead to an upset child if I don’t have an allergy-safe substitute in my purse. Similarly, my child gets very stressed if I can’t answer all her ‘how much longer?’ questions. Even worse is if I tell her we’re going home after such-and-such, and I’m wrong because I didn’t know all of the plans.” – Mom on Facebook

“They may need some time to be alone to gather themselves. Let them have a few minutes without questions. (Alzheimers).” – from Facebook

“Keep it calm and quiet. Limit touching. Don’t be offended if we need a quiet time in another room, outside, or even a short car ride. Don’t push foods; we know what we can and can’t have.” – from Facebook

“Christmas and other holiday gatherings can be physically painful. Allow the individual with special needs to control how much interaction they have and when.” – Grandmother on Facebook

Join us tomorrow as we address travel!

Want to read more Christmas series about a variety of topics? Check out the iHomeschool Network Christmas Hopscotch!


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