October 25, 2020

This year the holidays will look very different for most of us. Due to Covid-19, family gatherings will be smaller and may be accompanied by video conferencing of relatives and friends.  Holiday destination activities will be restrictive or cancelled and the exuberance of the season may be dampened.  Of course, that part depends on us, our perspectives, our creativity and our determination.  

The fact that we have traditions that may date back to our childhood does not preclude space for new traditions. This crisis has caused us all to take a step back and reconsider how we live. We’ve had to make numerous adjustments and sacrifices.  Your children have had to live with sudden and drastic changes to their routines; always a challenging scenario in the life of a special needs child and his/her family. It has been a trying and often exhausting period for everyone on a variety of levels.

Our expectations for the holidays are deep and long standing.  But I am challenging you to stay open and let go of expectations, to see outside of the box, and imagine what you can do to create new traditions and new ways of celebrating.  With time and thought, family gatherings can still be fun and there are outside activities that are safe and satisfying. If we are ambitious, even a little bit, we can use this time to inspire new beginnings and put fresh twists on traditional holiday fair. 

I know of a mom, who’s child is on the spectrum and she, despite her crazy, busy schedule, is constantly searching out and finding places to go, many of which I have never heard of, to enrich her son’s life experience.  Is this you? Can this be you?  She and her husband travel locally or to other states to add flair, excitement and nostalgia to their son’s holiday catalogue of memories.  These are things that, depending on time and budget, are within your grasp! This can be you:)

I believe this year will be an even bigger year for drive-by attractions and outdoor activities such as:

  • Halloween Blazes 
  • Pumpkin Lightings drive throughs
  • Pumpkin Picking
  • Christmas Light drive throughs
  • Christmas House Light displays in your town or city
  • Socially distant Christmas Tree, Menorah and Kanara lightings
  • Check your area for sensory friendly Santa programs such as; Caring Santa, Santa Cares and Sensitive Santa (I’m not sure if or how they are happening this year but I encourage you to investigate.)
  • Also, see if a Signing Santa will be in your area
  • Be ambitious in your search online and speak with friends in your community and special needs circles, to find out realistic options for your child and your family. 

There are many fun ways to enjoy Zoom or other video conferencing platforms to afford your child active participation in holiday fun. Some examples are:

  • Halloween Costume contests, sharing and parades
  • Pumpkin Carving parties
  • Simultaneous Christmas Tree decorating with friends and family
  • Gingerbread House making parties
  • Simultaneous house decorating 
  • Shared ornament making
  • Tell Kwanza stories or perform dances for family and friends
  • Perform Menorah and Kanara candle lightings with family and friends 
  • And more! This is a chance to flex your creative muscles!

As for staying home activities, you can:

  • Bake cookies 
  • Make Latkes 
  • Make Mac and Cheese
  • Decorate
  • Scrapbook past holiday celebrations
  • Make a Holiday collage 
  • Play games as a family
  • Watch Holiday movies together
  • Instead of Trick or Treating, play hide and seek with candy or do a simple picture or picture/word-clue Scavenger hunt (this can also be a great video conferencing idea with family and friends)
  • Plan a walk around your neighborhood to look at house decorations and lights
  • Plan a Holiday morning drive

Every child is unique and you know what is realistic and possible for yours better than anyone. Play around and adapt these and other ideas you can think of or that you discover in your research.  Planning is everything and preparing your child for the holidays using a calendar helps to build anticipation and is a reminder to your child that these events are coming; also, a terrific distraction during those rough moments, tantrums and outbursts leading up to these special days.  

Every person has her/his take on this virus. There are going to be places of agreement and disagreement when it comes to how to behave when we are gathered together. It could be helpful to discuss and come to a place of mutual agreement that everyone can live with and respect prior to the holidays.  This is going to mean that perhaps, no one will feel they are getting all of their preferences met.  But, can we find common ground?  This is a challenge for everyone so, don’t feel pressured to fold and sacrifice for what doesn’t feel right to you.  We all have to do what is best for ourselves and our families. I recommend when planning get togethers, that you follow CDC guidelines. They are there to inform and make everyone feel safer.  Go to their website to find explicit instructions. ( https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html). That strikes me as a good starting place.

And remember that this is a sensitive time for everyone.  Be mindful of your own feelings during the more stressful moments. Take deep breathes and do not be afraid to ask others to help you manage this season.  If you have few options, please remember to allow yourself to mess up. Forgive yourself and come back stronger to do better the next time. Stresses hit us all differently and the tendency to feel we have failed because it has gotten to us is normal.  Turn that around and learn from each fall. Step back and return calmer and more open. We are, each of us, just one person. Love yourself and that love will spill onto your child(ren) and your world. 

*This blog post is written with a strong awareness and appreciation for all cultures and religions and the unique traditions surrounding their holidays. I am sensitive to the fact that many are not represented above and in no fashion is that meant to imply disrespect. All of what I suggest here can be adapted to your holiday of choice. 

Peace and keep on Rising!

*I liked this article from Althea Mshar. She is a special needs mom and blogger

How Did I Get Here?

October 16, 2020

The journey to writing this first sentence has been a long one. It has been filled with so many diverse experiences, relationships (both student-teacher and parent-teacher) and amazing memories that have shaped the person I am today.  When I think back on who I was before entering into the field of Special Education, I recall someone sensitive and aware but lacking the understanding of what a family with a child possessing special needs faces.

My exposure to the nature of disabilities began very early in my life. I grew up with an uncle, paralyzed from the time he was 25, who lived with my family for a period of time when I was around 9 years old.  Watching him struggle to complete daily living tasks that an able bodied person might take for granted, was eye opening to how challenging the life of someone with a disability, could be.  However, regardless of his reality, he was a person first. He didn’t define his existence by his disability so neither did I.  Being with him seemed to me as natural as throwing a baseball; the only difference being… my uncle couldn’t walk.

I remember, in earlier years, how I loved when he’d give me rides as I stood on the back tilt bars of his wheelchair and that there was an extra chair in the garage that I would play with. It was all very light and innocent for a young boy who grew up in a world where disability was all but hidden. There was no education beyond my personal experiences. We weren’t as enlightened back then. Prior to his living with us, my uncle’s chair, in a sense, was the disability to me.  I understood that it substituted for his legs, but, that’s pretty much where it stopped. However, for my uncle, beyond that chair was so much more packed into the duffel bag that was his world. And when I was exposed to the everydayness of his life and that bag, I was awakened!

And now I am here. I have experienced from the inside, the worlds of families, different and the same, unique yet familiar to all who live it. I have witnessed the depth of their involvement. Aspects like the unending hours of care, scheduling, doctor visits, sacrifices, desperation, coping with meltdowns, managing to maintain “normalcy, ” the strains on relationships and the lost sense of self. All of the things other families don’t have to imagine. Yet, all of the things that make your life and your reality enormously important. And the good news? Despite and because of these there are the triumphs! And because of you, there is a “she” and there is a ”he.” There is the beauty of this unique person who graces this earth. An individual, who when allowed the opportunity, can achieve her or his potential. And that’s what you do everyday when you deal with “all of it.” You lend purpose and you give love, and your heart, to someone so deserving and capable and who, from my experiences, can blow your mind when given a chance!

So let this new journey begin. I hope to visit mindfulness and kindness as threads that weave this website’s core. Be mindful! Be kind! But not only of, and to others. Be mindful of you. Be kind to you. For that is how we triumph, when we have more or all of ourselves. Then we can give. 🙂

Peace and Keep Rising