How to Create a Sensory-Friendly Holiday for Your Neurodiverse Child
J Julia DeNey

How to Create a Sensory-Friendly Holiday for Your Neurodiverse Child

Dec 22, 2023

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, but for individuals with sensory sensitivities, it can also be overwhelming and stressful. If you have a family member or friend who experiences sensory challenges, it's important to create a sensory-friendly environment to ensure everyone can fully enjoy the festivities. Here are some tips on how to create a sensory-friendly holiday at your family's house.

1. Reduce Noise Levels

Loud noises can be distressing for individuals with sensory sensitivities. To create a more calming environment, consider turning down the volume on music or television, especially during meal times or when opening presents. Additionally, inform your guests in advance about any planned activities that involve noise, so they can prepare themselves or choose to participate in a quieter area.

2. Consider Lighting

Bright or flickering lights can be overwhelming for some individuals. If possible, use soft, diffused lighting throughout your home. Avoid flashing holiday lights or decorations that may cause discomfort. If you have a Christmas tree, consider using non-flashing lights or opt for a smaller tree with fewer lights.

3. Be Mindful of Scents

Strong scents from candles, air fresheners, or cooking can be overwhelming for individuals with sensory sensitivities. Opt for unscented candles or use natural scents like vanilla or lavender, which tend to be more soothing. If possible, keep the cooking area well-ventilated to minimize overpowering smells.

4. Offer Sensory-Friendly Foods

Consider the dietary preferences and sensory sensitivities of your guests when planning meals. Some individuals may have specific food aversions or textures they find challenging to tolerate. Provide a variety of options and be mindful of any dietary restrictions. Offering a separate table with a range of sensory-friendly foods can also be helpful.

5. Create a Quiet Space

Designate a quiet area in your home where individuals can retreat to if they need a break from the hustle and bustle. This space should be free from loud noises, bright lights, and overwhelming decorations. Provide comfortable seating, soft lighting, and some sensory-friendly items like fidget toys or weighted blankets. Make sure everyone is aware of this space and encourage its use whenever needed.

6. Communicate and Prepare in Advance

Reach out to your guests before the holiday gathering to discuss any specific needs or accommodations they may require. This will help you better understand their sensory challenges and make necessary adjustments to create a more inclusive environment. By communicating in advance, you can also provide them with a schedule of planned activities, allowing them to mentally prepare and manage their expectations.

7. Establish Clear Boundaries

Create visual cues or signs to indicate areas that may be off-limits or overwhelming for individuals with sensory sensitivities. This can help prevent misunderstandings and reduce anxiety. Make sure to communicate these boundaries to all guests, so they can be respectful and understanding.

Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment for a Joyful Experience

Remember, creating a sensory-friendly holiday environment requires empathy, understanding, and flexibility. By implementing these suggestions, you can ensure that everyone feels comfortable and included in the festivities. The goal is to create a joyful and inclusive experience that allows everyone to fully enjoy the holiday season together.

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