When it comes to Christmas and the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder it is all about making sure they still manage to get the right Sensory Diet. Trouble is with all the additional Sensory input (especially in terms of vision, sounds and smells) then this is going to knock their normal routine right out. I have already talked about how to tackle things such as Visiting friends and Family at Christmas . This post is particular about Sensory Craving at Christmas. The way I have found is best to deal with Sensory Craving is to ensure that there is a regular and often stimulation given. In a way I have provided a Sensory Advent Calendar this year to help calm the excitement a little.
It is key to consider what it is that has changed and is affecting them, and what can be done to get the balance right once more. This can be really difficult to understand because it may be that there is more visual stimulation than normal so you try to limit it (keeping decorations to a minimum for example): On the other hand it may be that you need to give them more opportunities to touch as they NEED to explore the world around them. Christmas for us is one of the most difficult times of the year as The Sensory Seeker gets so excited but often struggles to control his emotions and reactions. As well as trying to keep him at the right balance we ensure that he is supervised more than usual and remember that once things are back to how they were then things will be easier.
The Benefits of a Sensory Advent Calendar
The benefits of a Sensory Advent Calendar for our Sensory Seeker has meant that The Sensory Seeker is not just waiting until Christmas to get all his much needed Sensory Stimulation. Sensory Craving at Christmas can be a nightmare as our Sensory Seeker just cannot get enough input to the senses (mostly auditory, movement and touch; but he is also more sensitive to smell – but seems to want to avoid those). He gets really excited about actual Christmas day and I have found that giving him something to do each day has helped his Sensory diet. This in turn has meant it has been much easier with his hygiene issues (Sensory Craving is not pleasant where the toilet is involved!), especially cleaning his teeth – and sleep (ie he is managing to pretty much stick to his routine and get sleep!). It has also made the build up to Christmas a pleasant one for the whole family – doing nice things together, as opposed to feeling like we are just trying to contain the Sensory Seeker’s excitement a little! An added bonus of this has also been that he has been encouraged to at least try more foods – he even licked a lettuce leaf!
About the Sensory Advent Calendar
The Sensory Advent Calendar is simply having twenty-four things to do with The Sensory Seeker, one each day in December until Christmas Day. ? I wanted to get a real mix when deciding what to include in the Sensory Advent Calendar. I told the children that we would be doing a different thing each day but did not tell them what basing which activity we did being dependent of The Sensory Seeker’s needs and the needs of the whole family. Let’s face it just because he may have limitless energy at this time of year does not necessarily mean that I do too!! Your family may need something more structured and, depending on what works best for you and your family, maybe you could map something out, even produce a visual aid showing the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder what they are doing each day.
Activities to include in a Sensory Advent Calendar
There are obviously a great many things you can do with your child over Christmas, with a wealth of ideas online: Things I considered when creating The Sensory Advent Calendar consisted of activities to get really messy and creative; others were simple, clean and easy to organise and tidy away: Some that he could do independently, and others that involved us all coming together.
Does he require noise? Ideas include singing Christmas Carols, Playing with noisy Christmas novelties or playing Christmas songs (and maybe even having a dance too). Or simply getting outside and letting him be as vocal as he likes! Or if he wants to be settled and quiet some Christmas colouring or other quiet calm activity.
Does he require movement? Again dancing (or playing Just Dance on the computer) is a great way to get movement, as well as our 14ft trampoline, ice-skating and walking around to see Christmas lights. We are regularly doing Parkrun and are carrying this into December – but wearing festive clothes! I have previously written about the benefits of the Forest and Sensory Processing Disorder – and at this time of year you can catch falling leaves – or collect things to craft with at home. When he does not need movement and needs to settle and relax I have bought him some films to watch (linked in with the Christmas presents he has asked for this year), planned trips to the cinema, have Christmas story books to read (The Night Before Christmas Olaf style is The Sensory Seeker’s favourite), make Christmas shapes in our LEGO (also good for fine motor) or play a board game.Does he require touch? I had some really messy activities where he could get covered in paint and glitter. But also some edible ones where it didn’t matter if he tried to eat what he was touching! This could even be tied in with making gifts – such as our Christmas Tree Biscuits.
Which kind of activity used also was determined by time – such as was he able to easily have bath to get clean afterwards. I considered which kind of materials to use – does he need the same as he did last time or would he benefit from a different ones? (see my previous Sensory Snowman post). We made Reindeer food so that he could put it out on Christmas Eve so that he can visually associate it with being the night that Father Christmas comes out.
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Does he require smell? The Sensory Seeker has been more sensitive to smell and taken a dislike to some. The ideas I have when he needs smell are – a big bowl of freshly cooked popcorn; creating ornaments (such as Wonderbaby’s Apple & Cinnamon Ornaments); a scented candle (supervised); bubble bath/bath bomb or even a real Christmas tree.
I hope this post has been useful for you – and this blog has lots of ideas on it of things to do with the Individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. If you are having Bad days – then please read my previous post and hopefully things will be easier in the New Year.
When it comes to Christmas and the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder it is all about making sure they still manage to get the right Sensory Diet. Trouble is with all the additional Sensory input (especially in terms of vision, sounds and smells) then this is going to knock their normal routine right out. It is key to consider what it is that has changed and is affecting them, and what can be done to get the balance right once more. This can be really difficult to understand because it may be that there is more visual stimulation than normal so you try to limit it (keeping decorations to a minimum for example): On the other hand it may be that you need to give them more opportunities to touch as they NEED to explore the world around them. Christmas for us is one of the most difficult times of the year as The Sensory Seeker gets so excited but often struggles to control his emotions and reactions. As well as trying to keep him at the right balance we ensure that he is supervised more than usual and remember that once things are back to how they were then things will be easier.
Sensory Christmas Activities for the Sensory Seeker
I try to ensure that we do a good mix of Christmas Activities on the build up to Christmas and how I run that activity will depend on The Sensory Seeker. For example – does he need noise (and therefore we will put Christmas music on, sing, etc) or does he need it settled and quiet? Does he need a non-messy activity that he can really touch? Or does he need to get messy (and plan a bath time straight afterwards). Which kind of materials should I use – does he need the same as he did last time or would he benefit from a different one?
Sensory Snowman Cards
To demonstrate what I mean let’s take the idea of making a Snowman Christmas Card. You can really vary how much sensory input is involved and vary the craft material. This year we used shredded paper.
This is a non-messy craft in terms of it getting stuck to The Sensory Seeker but meant he could get it all over his hands (and my room!) without too much fuss. It was easy for him to understand the craft – as he simply had to stick it into two circular shapes. You could draw around something round like In the Playroom’s Upcycled Snowman Collage Cards. He was then free to use whatever craft materials he liked to decorate his snowman.
Alternatively, if this would have been too difficult for him I could have put the glue on the card in circles myself; Or the circles could be drawn with a white crayon (on a darker background); Or stuck on with paper or felt; Or even used cotton wool pads like this Quick Craft Snowman Card from RedTedArt.
If you wanted to get messier than how about using finger prints to make snowmen out of white paint. Or if you wanted to use paint without getting dirty how about using the end of an old toilet roll holder to put circles of paint on the page.
With Panto Season just around the corner it is good to see that so many theatres are putting on Relaxed Performances to make it more inclusive for all. I am compiling a list of Pantos with Relaxed Performances showing for the 2016-2017 Season and will add more that I hear of.
What are Relaxed Performances of a Panto?
Of course all theatres may vary slightly with what they offer but in general a Relaxed Performance is an adaptation of the regular Panto but is more suitable for those with autistic, sensory and communication conditions, learning disorders and anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment. Everyone is welcome but the performances are more relaxed – meaning that people will understand if someone needs to clap their hands, make noises or move around the auditorium. Some have fewer seats for sale, providing increased wheelchair capacity and giving audience members more space to make them feel more comfortable.
Lighting effects, noises and elements of surprise are kept to a minimum and with house lights being partially up (also making it safer to move around). Doors may be left open and chill-out areas provided for if the auditorium becomes overwhelming – with beanbags, sensory toys and bubble lights, that can be accessed throughout the show. There is often a chance to become familiar with the theatre and actors before the performance and/or a visual story. Front of House teams are often given specific training if any difficulties arise. Some theatres even have Autism Support Groups on hand to give any advice and information leaflets.
Please contact each theatre to find out exactly what it is they provide before booking. Information is accurate to my understanding at time of publish, gleamed from the individual venues but I take no responsibility for errors and advise checking before placing an order/making plans.
To find about more about this performance or to book your tickets, please call the Box Office on 01483 440000. All tickets for this performance are £9 which includes the Restoration Levy and Booking Fee. When booking your tickets you can let them know if you would like a familiarisation tour prior to your visit.
Friday 16th December 2016
Peter Pan – 10:30am Hawth Theatre, Hawth Ave, Crawley RH10 6YZ
Stars Shaun Williamson, aka Barry from EastEnders, Emma Barton (Honey in Eastenders) alongside Cook and Line, the pirate duo from CBeebies show Swashbuckle.
British Sign Language Interpreted Performance (Signer: Tony Oliver) – Saturday 17 December, 2pm
Sunday 18th December 2016
Robin Hood The Pantomime – 2pm Assembly rooms Ludlow, 1 Mill St, Ludlow SY8 1AZ
The Box Office is open from 10am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday: 01584 878141. £5 child, £8 adult, £22 family. Support companions go free, but still must book in advance. You can also book online, by post or in person.
Monday 19th December 2016
Snow White and Other Tales from the Brothers Grimm – 12 Noon
Oxford Creation Theatre: North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford OX2 7JN
Cinderella – 12 Noon
Oxford Creation Theatre: The Mill Arts Centre Banbury X16 5QE
Tickets are now on sale but if you have any questions, please call the Box Office on 01865 766266. For those who would benefit from the adapted performance, a special Relaxed Ticket at £10.
Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat – 1:30pm Chequer Mead Theatre, De La Warr Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 3BS
Starring Really Wild Show presenter Howie Watkins, BBC Sussex and Surrey’s Allison Ferns and Brookside actor Allen Mechen.
Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE
TV favourite Jorgie Porter* (Hollyoaks, I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!) will be making her pantomime debut as she heads up this year’s cast in the title role of Snow White! Jorgie will be joined by Radio City 96.7 Breakfast Show’s Leanne Campbell (a much-loved member of the Empire panto family, now in her fourth year) as the Wicked Queen, and back by popular demand is Liam Mellor as the lovable comic, Muddles
The theatre does not have its own parking facilities but Liverpool boasts many city centre car parks with reasonable rates and many are within 5 minutes’ walk of the theatre. The closest car parks are located at Mount Pleasant, Lord Nelson Street, Queen Square and at St John’s Shopping Centre on Lime Street. St. John’s Car Park offers discounted parking of £2.00 for patrons visiting the Liverpool Empire after 6.00pm and leaving before midnight (car park ticket must be validated in the theatre foyer).
0844 871 7677 (Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge)
Wednesday 28th December 2016
Sleeping Beauty – 17:00
Sunderland Empire. High Street West, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, SR1 3EX
Vicky Entwistle (Coronation Street, Les Misérables, The Vagina Monologues) is set to reveal a wicked side when she takes on the evil role of Carabosse, alongside actress and ‘Steps’ star Faye Tozer, who is set to sparkle as the Good Fairy and children’s TV favourite Andrew Agnew (CBeebies, Balamory), who returns to Sunderland following his triumphant panto performance in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2014, in the role of Silly Billy and also as director of this year’s pantomime!
Joining them is Amy-Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose, who is best known for playing Carmen in the popular CBBC series Tracy Beaker, plus spin off series The Dumping Ground and more recently as Linzi Bragg in Eastenders. The line-up is completed by special guest star and legend of radio, screen and stage, Bobby Crush (Opportunity Knocks, Benidorm, The Rocky Horror Show, Chicago) as Nurse Kelly.
Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677 (Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge) Mon-Sat, 9am-10pm. Sun 10am-8pm
Thursday 29th December 2016
Cinderella – 13:30
Bristol Hippodrome Theatre, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ
Torvill & Dean take to the stage as the Fairy Godparents. The classic rags to riches tale Cinderella will be transformed into a breath-taking family extravaganza with glittering sets, gorgeous costumes, big song and dance numbers, real Shetland ponies and jaw-dropping skating sequences.
If you require information about parking for patrons with a disability please call 0117 3023222 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm) or email email@example.com
Access Bookings: 0117 3023222
Friday 30th December 2016
Aladdin – 13:00
Opera House Manchester, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP
Loose Women and Benidorm favourite, and star of the all-new Are You Being Served?, Sherrie Hewson, will be appearing as The Genie of the Ring, opposite one of Manchester’s best-loved actors, John Thomson (Cold Feet) as the evil Abanazar. Pop sensation Ben Adams (A1) will tread the boards as the title role, Aladdin, and to complete the line-up, writer, director and one of the best dames in the business, Eric Potts will star as Widow Twankey!
Jack and the Beanstalk – 1.30pm and 7.15pm Theatre Royal Nottingham, Theatre Square, Nottingham NG1 5ND
This year’s GIANT family-friendly panto adventure stars the legendary comedy-duo The Chuckle Brothers as Paul and Barry Trot, Benidorm’sTony Maudsley as Dame Trot, and The X Factor finalist Chico as Jack, the hero of our tale. This unmissable production carries the Theatre Royal pantomime hallmark of outstanding entertainment for all ages and features laugh-out-loud comedy, stunning costumes and scenery, and amazing special effects as the audience and cast enter the Giant’s castle in spectacular 3D!
Sign Language Interpreted15/12/2016 1:30 pm
Audio Described17/12/2016 2:30 pm
Sign Language Interpreted18/12/2016 1:30 pm
Captioned07/01/2017 2:30 pm
Audio Described08/01/2017 1:30 pm
Sign Language Interpreted13/01/2017 7:15 pm
Call Caroline Pope on 0115 989 5627 for further details and to book. £2 for online bookings or £3 for phone & counter sales applies per transaction.
Thursday 5th January 2017
Jack and the Beanstalk – 10am The Everyman Theatre, Regent Street, Cheltenham, GL50 1HQ
There will be an audio described performance and touch tour for the performance on Wednesday 4th January @ 2.00pm and a sign language interpreted performance on Saturday 7th January @ 2pm
For the Relaxed Performance: 01242 695574
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – 19:00
New Victoria Theatre. The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre. Woking, Surrey, GU21 6GQ
The job of head dwarf Prof is a tall order but nothing that TV and film star Warwick Davis can’t measure up to. Known to millions from his roles in Star Wars, the Harry Potter series and Willow, as well as TV comedy series Life’s Too Short and Idiot Abroad 3, he will ensure that the pantomime won’t be short of laughs this Christmas. Joining him is comedy favourite Andy Ford as the Henchman.
Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677 Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.
Sleeping Beauty – 13:30
Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond. Surrey, TW9 1QJ
Maureen Lipman makes a welcome return to Richmond’s spectacular Panto as the Wicked Fairy. With a catalogue of acting credits for television, stage and film, Maureen is well-known for her roles in films Educating Rita and the award-winning The Pianist. Joining her after two highly successful pantomimes at Richmond will be none other than CBeebies favourite Chris Jarvis in the role of Chester the Jester, returning for a third year in a row, due to overwhelming popular demand.
Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677 Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.
Returning for the second year running as one half of them awfy Ugly Sisters is Gregor Fisher (Rab C Nesbitt, Naked Video). Gregor’s old chum Tony Roper (Rab C Nesbitt, The Steamie) is back in his squad as a fellow ugly alongside King’s panto favourite Des Clarke (Capital FM) as Buttons. River City’s Gary Lamont stars as Dandini with Elaine MacKenzie Ellis (Rab C Nesbitt, Me Too) as the Fairy Godmother also taking to the ballroom floor. Completing the cast is our Prince Josh Tevendale (Avenue Q) and of course, Cinderella herself, Gillian Ford. It’s gonnae have to be some size of pumpkin carriage for this lot!
Glasgow City Council operates a supervised 24hr, pay-on-foot (credit cards accepted) multi-storey car park behind the theatre in Elmbank Crescent with access via Elmbank St. Parking after 6pm costs £2.50 and this charge entitles you to park until 8am the following day. This car park has spaces reserved for people with disabilities.
Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677 Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.
Wednesday 11th January 2017
DIck Whittington 11:00
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG
The Home of London Pantomime is thrilled to announce the strictly sensational Arlene Phillips CBE will make her pantomime debut in this year’s Dick Whittington alongside the return of the side-splittingly hilarious Tim Vine and the best dame in the business, Matthew Kelly.
Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677 Calls cost 7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.
Box Office on 0115 941 9419 for more details on Relaxed Performances. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding familiarisation visits, wheelchair access and disabled parking, all you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOHN BARROWMAN, STEVE MCFADDEN, THE KRANKIESand MATT SLACK
Captioned: Sunday 8th January 2017 1pm and Wednesday 11th January 7:15pm
Signed: Sunday 15th January 2017 1pm & 5:15pm
Audio Described: Wednesday 18th January 2017 2pm & Saturday 21st January 2017 2:30pm.
No Under 3s
For further information, please contact Liz Leck, Creative Learning Manager, on 0121 689 3064 or email@example.com. Please note, this contact is for information only. Bookings MUST be made through the Ticket Sales number on 0844 338 5000 (Call cost 4.5p per min plus access charge).
I was also told of the following:
Oldham – Coliseum – Sleeping Beauty
Audio Described: Tuesday 13 December, 7.30pm
BSL: Thursday 15 December, 7.30pm
Bolton – Octagon Theatre – Cinderella
Audio Described: Friday 2 December 7:00pm
BSL: Friday 9 December 7:00pm
Captioned: Friday 16 December 7:00pm
Manchester – The Lowry – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
BSL: Thursday 15 December, 7.30pm.
Audio Description: Sunday 18 December, 2pm. Free Touch Tour 12.30pm.
Relaxed: Thursday 22 December, 2pm – please book in person or over the phone on 0843 208 6010.
Captioned: Tuesday 10 January, 7.30pm
If you know of any other Relaxed Performance Pantos then please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I can add them in.
“I’m just a sheep!” – the line uttered today by The Sensory Seeker. He is anything BUT just anything. It was actually a comical line and just perfect for his well-timed, well-spoken delivery. Seeing him on the centre stage, in front of everyone, performing just like any other child. In fact not even every child could do that, and some did not have any lines. He did so well singing all the songs and the actions too.
To think I was worried about him starting at a mainstream school – and now here his last Christmas play – I wish he never had to leave. The support of the school has been amazing, but I cannot praise my little boy enough. He works so hard, but also gives life his all. He is so happy and tries to please those around him too (even though he does not quite understand that not everyone wants his hugs or kisses all the time!). He is on his 4 times tables – having already mastered his 10s, 5s and 2s and is blending his sounds to read.
This year he has coped with Christmas much easier – now he knows numbers, days and months a bit better. In fact he’s only been tempted twice to open his LEGO advent calendar ahead of the days! As I say, he’s touching people a bit more but generally coping much better (even if he does keep talking about Easter). We have only just put some (Christmas) lights up (the Christmas decorations usually go up before the 1st December). In fact it is only after this first Christmas performance that we have really felt the change (trying to open his door and trying to get out of his seat belt whilst his dad was driving on the motorway). We usually don’t allow computer games until the weekend but we are finding that they are helping to stabilise him (and we are allowing him to play as a reward).
How are you finding the build up to Christmas and do you have any tips on coping?
Egg Carton Christmas Trees are good because they are so simple to make, utilise fine motor skills, are inexpensive (using recycled materials) and make great ornaments – which am sure will then enhance your child’s self-esteem. You will need:
1 egg carton (not the plastic sort)
things to stick on
needle and cotton
Cut out the egg cartons into individual cups.
Simply paint the egg cups green and allow to dry.
Thread the painted cups together tying a note in the underside of the cups and leaving enough string to hang them.
Decorate with stickers, paper – or whatever you fancy for your tree.
Hang it up.
Christmas and The Sensory Seeker
Christmas is a great time for the Sensory Seeker as there’s just so much stimulation for him. I think as he is getting older it is much easier for him to handle. For instance he has more of a concept of time. He has learnt the days of the week and that certain things happen on certain days (for example after school clubs, roast on Wednesdays at school etc), plus he is now learning to tell the time in his maths lessons. He understands now that there is a build up to Christmas and then a long wait before the next one (he used to wake up every day thinking it would be Christmas again). 6 and half is such a magical age anyway that I am sure this one will be truly magical.
To help The Sensory Seeker cope with Christmas we put a few things in place and one of the things we do is plenty of Sensory fulfilling ideas such as Christmas Crafts. This year we decided to make Reindeer food. This just comprises of oats for the Reindeer to eat and edible glitter so that it shines and they can see where it is/which house to go to.
I got the idea from Mum in the Madhouse – also told me that I can purchase the glitter for £1 from Poundland. I really simplified the idea down so that it was easy for The Sensory Seeker to understand and did not demand too much from him. We used some tissue paper to make a bag with which we tied with a bit of ribbon that we had been using to decorate our presents.
I put a big bowl of porridge oats in the middle of the table with some spoons. The idea is to put a mix of oats and different colour glitters into the center of the tissue paper. This was good for helping him with his fine motor skills (holding the spoon), hand-eye co-ordination (moving from bowl to paper), and thinking about how much oats were on the paper (he did struggle with this last bit as he kept on going). Of course, like any activity, it also helped him increase his concentration and attention span too.
The same skills were also applicable to the glitter. Doing an activity of this kind really helps to calm and focus The Sensory Seeker who really struggles in these last days of the excitement to Christmas. He does not quite understand time either so is always so hyped up that Christmas will be here soon. It is good to get him to sit still for a little while.
The Sensory Seeker will then put out the Reindeer Food on Christmas Eve before bed. Doing this as a tradition every year will mean that over time he will begin to understand that it is the night before Christmas.
Check out these other Sensory Christmas ideas from other bloggers:
Over on ParentShaped there’s some home made dog treats – like play dough that dogs can eat. Perfect for those with Sensory needs with a dog.
Another Play Dough inspired idea is this Ginger Bread Latte Play Dough and Chocolate Play Dough by Crafts on Sea, and over on the Gingerbread House they have Gingerbread playdough (or as an alternative to playdough there’s Gingerbread Cloud dough). They are really good for the tactile and olfactory senses. Although you do have to be careful with Sensory Seekers as the recipe has a lot of salt in it so not good for those who always put things in their mouth. Whilst In The Playroom has Sparkly Gel Dough. Whilst all the play dough recipes are good for tactile and hand
development, this sparkly dough has an added visual stimulation: Good for those Seeker or needing stimulation.
We are also working on a range of Christmas Tree crafts and I do love the Pipe Cleaner Christmas Trees on Zing Zing Tree, just perfect for fine motor development and helping with the tactile element as the pipe cleaners and pompoms have different textures.
I am going to find as many Sensory Craft ideas as I can -such as this Writing Practice Sensory Bag on In the Playroom. If you have a Sensory Activity then I would love to know about it please. Could you kindly comment below, catch me on Social media or e-mail me. Thank you.
Christmas is a time when we go visiting a lot of family and friends which can be difficult for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder. But when it comes to Sensory Processing Disorder techniques to help with Christmas, what works for one individual will not necessarily work for another. You need to look at the individual’s Sensory Make-up – each of the seven senses (vision (sight), tactile (touch), auditory (hearing), gustatory (taste), Vestibular (movement & gravity), olfactory (smell) and proprioception (sense of body position, from information received through the muscles, and joints – force, speed and control) and whether there is a problem filtering with too much, too little or a mix of the two) and determine what their individual needs are based on that.
Problems visiting Family & Friends for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder at Christmas
The individual with Sensory Processing Disorder may very well not like change: The brain is already struggling to make sense of the World without added pressures of it constantly changing. At Christmas people often go visiting friends and family that they do not see regularly, which can be hard on the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. Added to that is the environment can be greatly heightened with lights, noise, and extra people – which can be quite an overload for the resister or they may want to touch, hug squeeze more (for example) if they are a Sensory Seeker.
Sensory Processing Strategies for Coping with visiting family and friends this Christmas
Planning. If possible know as much about what is going to happen as you can. This means you can prepare. Knowing how far it is, how long you will be, what will happen, who will be there will greatly improve the likelihood of smooth visiting.
How far: Will they need something to keep them calm on the journey. We have a ds, tablet and in car dvd player. If there is an unexpected long journey with have apps on our phone. Although this is advice for any child to stop them becoming bored when visiting family and friends, for those with Sensory Processing Disorder it can help them calm down and remain focused.
How long: Knowing how long visiting will last can help better prepare the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. Make sure you explain things in terms they understand; for example with the use of time. It would be no use telling our Sensory Seeker that we would be visiting until 7pm, but he would understand if we told him that the visit would end by bedtime. It also helps prepare for whether other things need to be packed – do they need to take an activity, favourite toy, ipad/ds, etc – are they likely to have an “accident” and need a change of clothes packing, will they need something to ensure they eat/drink – like a special cup? Are their Sensory Issues likely to become a problem whilst they are there? Do you need to take things to help deal with those issues whilst still there (will you need a weighted blanket/lappad with you, head phones, eye mask/sunglasses, squeezy, chewy or favourite toy.
What will happen whilst visiting and who will be there: if you can talk to them before you go then they can be prepared. If it is a party situation then it may be noisy – music and party poppers, or additional lights (see this guide on parties as it will be pretty similar). Is it possible to arrange a safe place to go, do they know where the toilet is – or who they should ask about it? Will there be people they do not know? Do they know what to do if someone wants to hug or kiss them? If they do not like it may be they could offer a hi-five or to offer to shake hands instead. Have they got something to help them cope if they want to kiss/hug people more than is socially acceptable (I tend to get him to come and give me a bear squeeze instead).
If you can think of any other problems and/or solutions for visiting family and friends at Christmas for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder then please do reply below.
The recipe for a successful Christmas with a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder has to be to understand their needs and fulfil them. Our Sensory Seeker thrives on structure, organisation and routine. Continuing on the theme of teacher gifts this week we made Hot Chocolate Santas. We made them for his brother’s teachers and also as a build up to a family night watching Christmas films, eating and drinking chocolate.
Take the cellophane or food bag and make into a cone shape, secure in place. Take the red paper and roll it around your cone to make a hat. Remove the hat, secure together and glue on some cotton wool to the bottom.
Next fill the cellophane bag with hot chocolate – make sure that the bag has been properly sealed and that the powder isn’t falling out. If you wish you can add some chocolate drops in first – this will make it less likely that the powder will fall through and will not be seen under the hat (as well as being a tasty surprise). Make sure you have left plenty of room at the bottom to put lots of mini-marshmallows to represent Santa’s beard. Then sealed the cellophane closed and tie with a red, white or silver ribbon. Stick on the eyes, the red pompom as a nose and attach some cotton wool as a moustache. Pop your Santa into a mug. When ready tip the cottons into the mug with warm water and add squirty cream and sprinkles. Drink whilst snuggled up under a blanket watching Christmas films with the family.
Benefits of Making Hot Chocolate Santas for those with Sensory Processing Disorder
This was beneficial for our Sensory Seeker* because it helped keep him grounded. It was good for his tactile stimulation, hand development, hand-eye co-ordination, fine motor, logic and order (knowing which ingredients to add next) speaking and listening (when asking how to do something), sense of belonging & importance. Of course he really liked the taste too and allowing him to eat the chocolate whilst doing the activity really helped keep him focused/hold his attention to the task.
*Note that The Sensory Seeker is not actually featured in this post but his older brother. the benefits of the activity still apply.
When you have a child with special needs I think that a Hand Made Christmas gift for their teachers is a really special touch. The teachers know that The Sensory Seeker does not cope with the change of routine that Christmas brings, and how hard he has worked at making their gift. Not only does it help show the progress he’s made but it also helps him cope with his Sensory imbalance. This year he made Christmas Tree biscuits – which I then simply packed into cellophane, tidied some ribbon round and added a bow.
Hand Made Christmas Tree Biscuits Gifts
The recipe to make the biscuits is slightly more complicated but The Sensory Seeker used an all in one mix which seemed to work okay.
Christmas Tree Biscuits Ingredients
250g Softenend butter, 140g castor sugar, 1 egg yolk, 300g plain flour (plus extra if it is to sticky and for the surface/rolling pin), orange flavouring
For Decoration: Ice sugar, colouring, sweets.
Christmas Tree Biscuits Method
Measure all the ingredients. The benefits for The Sensory Seeker were that he had to listen, follow instructions and his attention/patience were stretched. I often had to change my use of language to be simpler for him, or less abstract to him. For example after weighing the sugar and flour they both needed tipping in together. But both items were white and some The Sensory Seeker did not understand the instruction tip the sugar in with the flour. But when I told him to put the contents of the white little bowl into the green big bowl he was able to understand.
Mix together all the ingredients. The Sensory Seeker started by stirring with a spoon, this was beneficially for him learning to try and stop himself from just touching things. I did then let him mix it in with his hands – which is good for his hand development as well as getting the desired tactile sensory input that he requires.
Next the mixture was rolled out and Christmas Trees cut out using cutters. If you have no cutters I am sure a Christmas Tree shape would be easy enough to make with a knife. They were then baked in our fan oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes (watch the biscuits and smell them until they are ready). Let cool before decorating.
Decorating the Christmas Tree Biscuits
Simply colour some icing green and pour over the Christmas Trees. Whilst this is still wet decorate with stars and circle sweets (to represent baubles). When this has dried squeeze on more coloured icing to represent tinsel.
Turning Christmas Tree Biscuits into Hand Made Gifts
To turn the Christmas Tree Biscuits into beautiful Hand Made Gifts then simply shape some cellophane around them (we got ones with Christmas Trees on from Ebay), and secure it in place with sticky tape. Make it more of a gift by added some ribbon in festive colours and a bow.
Christmas Tree Biscuit Gifts Benefits and Problems for The Sensory Seeker
Making the Christmas Tree Biscuits provided a lot of benefits to The Sensory Seeker, but there were also a few problems to overcome. Whilst making the mixture up I also talked to The Sensory Seeker a lot: This was good for his auditory sense, following instructions, and his understanding – as we discussed concepts such as number, texture, etc. He has made great relationships with the staff at school and it was great to see him taking such pride in the activity. This is great for his sense of self and of his World (thinking about others). I was actually really impressed with him asking if it was time to start the next section again when he was allowed to play on computer games. The activity was great for his hand development with mixing, rolling, cutting, transferring (the biscuits onto the tray), and fine motor for adding the sweets. Most of these also helped his hand-eye co-ordination and his sense of place. He was able to meet many aspects of his Sensory Diet such as adding in some orange flavouring, which is good for the sense of smell, whilst giving the biscuits a Christmas feel. The Sensory Seeker DID need to wash his hands A LOT as inevitably he ended up touching. The surfaces also needed a lot of cleaning. The Sensory Seeker was particularly unable to resist the butter and had to be stopped from giving the (cooked) biscuits a little kiss (to give his teachers his love). It was a great way to let him become more aware about hygiene. Sitting still is quite difficult for The Sensory Seeker so the biscuits were made in stages. He also sat on a stool that allowed him to spin around and around in circles getting his vestibular input.
Note for parents: This activity may require a lot of patience and result in a lot of mess. We did it in the kitchen (with easy wipe surfaces and floors) and not far from the sink.
There is nothing better than building up the excitement to Christmas with some crafting. I find that the structure also helps my Sensory Seeker cope with the sheer chaos of Christmas and lack of routine. Sven is a favourite character from the hit film Frozen and so I thought that this year our Sensory Seeker would appreciate making some reindeer Christmas crafts.
I love this little craft as it is so simple but so personal. Simply cut out the shape of the head and paint brown, whist also making 2 hand prints. Once dry glue together and add a tissue paper red nose, and two black eyes. Thread it up with a “Stop here Santa” sign and one at the back to hang up.
This was good because my Sensory Seeker LOVES to paint. And the cutting, sticking and threading is fantastic for his fine motor development.
Or what about letting them lose with tape to make a Reindeer – for a mess free craft idea. It can be made by letting them stick freestyle, or you can draw the lines on the paper for them, or they could copy from an image in front of them. Afterwards you could let them colour inside it or glue some glitter and/or Christmas shapes inside.
Or if your child has some patience then why not make a Reindeer from a toilet roll holder. We painted him brown and let him it dry, before simply adding the eyes, pompom nose and feather ears. This was part of our Toilet Roll Holder Advent from last year.