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.
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.
Thank you to the Forestry Commission for sending us craft materials and a free parking pass.