Last-Minute Holiday Checklist for Special Needs Parents

The holidays can be a hectic time, with travel, shopping, planning, work and more competing for your time. Parents of children with special needs often already feel torn between two worlds even outside of the holiday season, making this time of year even more stressful than otherwise. In the interest of helping jog the memory of our community about things to keep in mind, we have compiled a short overview to serve as a last-minute holiday checklist, hoping it will help clear the clutter and make your holiday go more smoothly.

Children with Cerebral Palsy may face a wide variety of challenges, making any list of suggestions incomplete due to the range of factors to consider. However, this holiday we encourage you to keep in mind the following:


  • Will you be driving in a vehicle different than your everyday vehicle? Is it equipped to carry your child? Be sure to remember your handicapped placard if that is the case, as well as ask ahead to ensure any adaptive equipment or unique items will fit.
  • Is the place you are going to conducive to your child’s health? A new pet or various other environmental factors may be a concern should your child have asthma or other breathing and sensitivity issues.
  • Have a copy of your medical records? Bring them with you in case you need care during your trip, however long.


  • Is your family aware of your child’s physical and emotional needs? Speaking with family ahead of time can help in preventing a child from feeling left out or alienated should activities be planned that exclude him or her. You can see our suggestions regarding speaking with a family member about Cerebral Palsy here.
  • Will there be other children there that may not understand how to act or behave around your child? Speak with other parents about this ahead of your visit to show your comfort with the topic and to answer any questions they may have.
  • Do you know what gifts your child is receiving? Or how they are wrapped? Difficult to open presents can be an emotionally-draining burden on your child and take away from the moment. Be open about your child’s abilities and work with your loved ones to ensure things are seamless.


  • You may have things totally covered when it comes to clothing, equipment, etc., but what about comfort items for the trip? Be sure to pack an additional small bag that includes familiar toys, foods and general ‘in case of emergency’ items. Your first inclination may be to ensure they get packed with other must-haves but you may then run into problems in the short-term.


  • Do you have an exit plan if your child becomes overstimulated and/or simply needs to get ‘away’? This plan can not only include ensuring there is an activity for your child to do in another room should he or she simply need to step away, but also planning with your family about when you agree to come and go. Doing so can avoid any hurt feelings, as well as ensure you don’t exceed your child’s stamina for activities.
  • Friendship Circle has an awesome suggestion of reserving special time for your child as a means of undivided attention. You can use this time to check-in on how things are going, but also guarantee they are not left out should activities be beyond their ability.
  • What’s on the menu? Dive into what your host is planning to prepare to make sure that it aligns with your child’s needs and abilities. Hosting? Try to see if there’s one dish your child can have that everyone else can have as well to promote inclusion.
  • Is there a ‘job’ that your child can be assigned to feel part of the process? Whether it’s making and setting out name tags for seating assignments or making a craft, try and see if there is a task your child can take on that he or she can be recognized for! Looking for suggestions? Check out our holiday decorating ideas for children with limited mobility!

Gift Giving

On behalf of everyone at MyChild and, we hope all of you and your families have a wonderful holiday!