Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

December 10, 2014

Sensory Processing Disorder: Keeping calm during the holidays with an occupational therapist

The 2014 holiday season is upon us and many adults are already feeling overwhelmed.  The holidays can also be an exciting time for children; but for those children who have Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD), the holidays can be very over stimulating.  Here are a few ideas from Marion Wilm, Occupational Therapist, to keep your child calm and organized.

  • Turn off the blinking light function on the Christmas tree and other lights.  A steady light is much more calming.  It is even better if you turn off some of the other lights in the house and allow the tree to provide low level lighting. 
  • Remember that structure is more important than participating in every party that your child is invited to.  Keep bedtime routines consistent too. 
  • Snuggle with your child (deep pressure input) while watching a favorite holiday movie or reading a special holiday book. 
  • Many holiday foods are laced with sugar.  Provide alternative food choices that are healthy.  Chewy foods are much more organizing (deep pressure input again) than all of the soft, crumbly foods presented this time of year.  Some food choices include:  dried fruit, raisins, sugarless gum, cheese, marshmellows, bagel bites, power bars and apple slices. 
  • Bake and decorate cookies together.  Rolling out cookie dough with a rolling pin promotes good motor coordination.  Start with refrigerated sugar cookie dough to make the task faster (for kids with poor attention).
  • Play Christmas music that is calming.  There are many orchestral arrangements of favorite Christmas songs that are less stimulating than today’s versions done by pop stars. 
  • Consider recording yourself reading a Christmas story to your child on one of your technology devices.  Your child can listen to this while you are off doing something else. 
  • As you burn holiday candles, remember that a vanilla scent (i.e. Christmas cookie) is more calming than peppermint or pine scented candles. 
  • Create the time and space to allow your child to use his imagination.  Often a child’s life becomes so overscheduled that there is no time to do whatever makes his heart sing.                                                            

Talk with a pediatric occupational therapist at Child and Family Development for more ideas on keeping the season merry and bright!