The Holidays as a Parent of a Child with Special Needs

While the holidays are supposed to be a time of excitement, happiness and relaxation, parents of a child with special needs also know there is a lot more to it when navigating the holidays. Whether it involves tackling the logistics of traveling, trying to find menu options that accommodate dietary restrictions, handling seasonal shifts or addressing complications with ‘less than aware’ family members, the holidays can (and often are!) a challenge! We understand that there are wide assortments of challenges, each unique to your family, but have a few suggestions that can hopefully help!

One post we wrote last year is still valuable today: information for flying with a child with Cerebral Palsy. The guide is focused, as you might guess, on effectively navigating the challenges (and possible headaches!) associated with flying with a child with special needs. The post includes TSA guidelines, suggested items to pack, a travel checklist, customer service numbers specifically for special needs assistance and more. If you are flying, we HIGHLY recommend checking this before you get in the car to go to the airport, much less book your tickets!

Dietary challenges are understandable, especial when a child has special needs related to a condition like Cerebral Palsy. While some parents may just say nothing and try to navigate issues once the holiday dinner is served, there are five things to try beforehand to see if you can help your family (and your host) limit concerns. TO adjust for your child’s dietary needs, consider:

  • Offering to provide dishes you know match your child’s needs while being enough for everyone eating at the table. Doing so can not only help with inclusion but also tailor your help to two needs: participation and your child’s needs.
  • Bring backup foods that do not require refrigeration. Sometimes an ‘obvious recipe’ may randomly include an ingredient that makes it a no-go. Having backup foods in the trunk not only can help in this situation but others moving forward; non-perishable snacks ‘that work’ should be a permanent part of your car’s storage.
  • Plan well in advance. If you know where Thanksgiving will be in November, begin the conversation soon so that options are possible and that accommodations can be made. Our focus here is that waiting until the week before, which can be an easy accident, can cause undue stress or conflict on both sides. Jumping into the issue now may help with a lot of things in the weeks to come.
  • If your holiday prep needs to include Halloween, begin planning with any family members involved about what foods, candy and more are a no-go so that you don’t have a miscommunication should others be involved in your child’s holiday fun!

Seasonal preparations can involve a lot of things but there are a few very specific items to plan for: vaccinations/flu shots specific to the colder weather, energy costs for your home and needs related to transportation (including assistive technology or van assistance). We do have a number of resources that include help with energy bills for families that need it and vehicle conversion help, so don’t hesitate to contact us online or by calling (800) 692-4453(800) 692-4453 FREE if you need this assistance.

Finally, and most succinctly, we have a very thorough overview available related to disability etiquette that may be helpful for family who are unaware or don’t fully understand Cerebral Palsy.

It’s an unfortunate reality that parents of a child with special needs face so many challenges related to the holiday season. We hope these items have been of help to you but ask that you send us a message or post to us on our Facebook with additional suggestions or ideas that you have found helpful. If you have questions on resources we have available to families of children with Cerebral Palsy, please don’t hesitate to call us at (800) 692-4453(800) 692-4453 FREE or fill out our contact form. All of our help is free of charge and aimed at helping parents just like you!