It’s a busy time of year, no doubt. Your to-do list is never-ending and your kid(s) are super-excited…or, are they? Having a child with CAS (or any special need for that matter) can present a few obstacles as your holiday plans hit high-gear.
Of course, as a parent you have a mental list of things that you know will happen as the days and weeks tick by. Kids often have an idea, but they don’t know exactly what goes into a full-fledged month of festivities. Here’s a break-down of some situations you may encounter, along with some possibly solutions.
Making a Wish List: No doubt are kids eager to start telling you what they want for the holidays. But what if your little one has limited verbal skills? As a parent, you know your child better than anyone–so why not help them out a bit? Go through some catalogs on your own (sort of nostalgic way to spend the afternoon or evening) and clip some items that you think your child will like. Assemble them in a make-your-own “catalog.” Present it to your child to take a look at and circle or otherwise mark the ones they are most intereted in. This is easier than say giving them an entire Sears Wish Book which is just too overwhelming with too much extraneous stimuli. You may even consider taking it along to the mall when you see Santa.
Santa: As a parent with a daughter whose CAS is resolving, I can tell you just how proud I am of Kate for being able to tell Santa what she wanted. But it hasn’t always been that easy. One year, Kate knew she couldn’t communicate with Santa when he asked the all-important question. Her eyes welled up and she looked over at me standing by the photographer with the look of, “please help, mommy.” I know a lot of kids get stage-fright when seeing the big man in red, but I also knew deep down that Kate couldn’t talk, even if she wanted to. It nearly broke my heart. It’s important to find a patient Santa who will understand that there are kids with different needs. Perhaps, I could have taken a catalog to have Kate show Santa what she wanted, or she could have drawn a picture for him. .
Lights/Music/Action: Sometimes when I go to the mall, I’m overstimulated. I can only imagine how our kiddos feel! If you know yours is prone to meltdowns due to” too much,” then try to make your trips sans kids. Ask for others to be respectful of your child’s needs and turn down the music or turn off the lights.
Singing along: Kids want to sing along to the songs we all know–whether it’s at home, school, or your place or worship–teach your children a way they can contribute to the music. Perhaps, he can shake the tambourine, or say a certain phrase or word that is part of the song (“jingle”), or doing a cute dance to the music may help.
Seeing “strangers” again: You may only see Aunt Mimi once a year and your child doesn’t remember her well. Start by going through your photo albums and naming folks you’ll likely see again. Practice those names often. You can do what SLPs call “auditory bombardment,” say the name several time a day for about a minute each, after hearing it so often, your child can sometimes piece together the motor plan to say it on his own.
House Calls: Visiting grandma’s house is different than being at home, so start early by reminding your children now what the expectations are at a different home. When folks come to your house, try to teach your child simple things she can do to help guests feel welcomed–without words. She can take their coat, bring a plate of cookies, deliever gifts, pick up wrapping paper for the trashcan. Remind your child that if she needs a break, she can always go to her room–because sometimes a full house is just “too much.”
How to explain CAS: No doubt will you bump into someone who is insensitive and doesn’t even know it. They will ask your child all kinds of questions and he may just stand there looking scared. You, of course want to run to his rescue–and you should–here are some tackful ways to respond,
- “He’s still warming up.”
- “She has a hard time communicating, but she is getting so much better.”
- “Actually, I’m glad you brought that up. We learned recently that ____has CAS.”
- You can even type out a blurb about your understanding of CAS and have it ready to hand out if others want to know more.
- Talking isn’t really his thing. But he sure can _____.”
It’s best if you can explain these nuances in a private setting–or at least not in front of your child–which may cause him to be more self-conscious.
Good luck with it all–and let me know if you have any other great ideas on helping kids with apraxia at the holidays.