Written by SENsational Tutors Ltd.
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10 top-tips to have an enjoyable Christmas with your child with SEN
The festive season is a time when many families unwind and take a break from their regular day-to-day routines.
Adapting to this break from the norm may cause some distress if your child has an additional or Special Educational Need (SEN) such as autism, ADHD, high-functioning autism (Asperger’s Syndrome), or Sensory Processing Disorder.
You might like to prepare them in advance for the festive season, or plan to play some festive games or activities together to help maintain a feeling of stability as well as inject a little more festive fun into your family time together!
Here are 10 reminders to help you have an enjoyable Christmas with your child with SEN:
TIP 1 : Count down the days!
Many children with SEN benefit from visual support and interventions. Let’s not underestimate the advert calendar, which are popular with all children including those with SEN to provide a visual countdown until the big day. Opening and closing the little windows on a daily basis will also be good practise to develop your child’s fine-motor skills.
TIP 2: Prepare for the unknown and unexpected
Remember that situations where children with SEN are out of their routine may cause distress or anxiety. Perhaps you are having visitors or going to friends or members of your family and it may be that you haven’t seen them for a while.
Ask whoever you are visiting if they can send you a photo of themselves to help your child with SEN visualise who to expect. Your child with SEN may also ask questions about them. To reduce any confusion or frustration, try to make any answers visual and perhaps draw and explain a family tree, or print off a map to show where they live.
TIP 3: Write a schedule for festive season
Many families have certain traditions that they do every year. This may include leaving mince pies out the night before, eating a large special lunch on Christmas Day, and seeing friends or family for Boxing Day.
Whatever your family’s tradition, to help your child with SEN understand the events of the day and therefore reduce his or hers anxiety, make a visual timetable. Depending on the ability of your child, this could be written, or use pictures – for example (PECs) – or a combination of both.
TIP 4: Play fun language games (to also boost confidence for the new school term)
Games and puzzles are often played over the Christmas holidays, as a popular and easy way to spend some precious time with family members, whether they’re young or old.
Children generally learn more effectively when their brains are active, so engaging in these activities could also help to develop his or her learning development.
Language and communication skills are vital for us to be able to request our want and needs, and to develop our relationships with others. For children with SEN however, this may not come as naturally as for their peers. Schools provide a rich language and learning environment, and the school holidays provide a fantastic opportunity to maintain this at home.
Don’t forget traditional games such as scrabble which can also help develop turn-taking and processing skills
TIP 5: Play Puzzles
- Physical skills – through holding and turning puzzle pieces to work out where they fit
- Cognitive skills – the thinking process needed to solve the puzzle
- Emotional skills – learning patience and feeling rewarded when the puzzle is done.
A child with SEN can also naturally build their social skills if they’re solving the puzzle with other people. They also help to develop their working memory and processing skills. There are a lot of fantastic puzzles available on the market.
TIP 6: Get creative
Creativity helps to develop your child with SEN’s physical, social, cognitive and emotional skills. Christmas provides a fantastic opportunity to make homemade gifts and decorations from recycled paper and resources. Does your child with SEN love glitter? Now’s the time to bring it out of the cupboard! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Make DIY paper snowflakes
- Get crafty and make some cotton ball snowmen
- Create homemade gift tags from old Christmas cards – and encourage your child to write out the gift messages too!
- Create personalised handprint Christmas ornaments
TIP 7: Make a song and a dance of it!
Christmas is a time to celebrate and have fun. Singing and dancing is often an emotional release for children, including those with SEN.
Research suggests that the positive effects can be long-lasting, so put on some energetic Christmas music and celebrate the festive season!
TIP 8: Explore food
Your child may be a fussy eater and have aversions to different textures but Christmas is a fantastic opportunity to try to explore different food tastes and senses.
Consider introducing your child with SEN to Christmas spices like cinnamon, or how about creating a fantastic fruit Christmas tree to ensure that they keep up their intake of essential vitamins and minerals during the festive season.
TIP 9: Watch and discuss movies
You may think that sitting your child with SEN in front of the TV won’t yield benefits, but if done in the right way then it can be a fantastic opportunity for you to help develop their comprehension and language skills.
Ask them to summarise the movie into beginning, middle or end, or stop the movie at certain points and ask them to make a prediction about what would happen next.
These are both concepts taught and assessed in the UK English curriculum. Into the Book is an online reading comprehension resource which you can access to further boost your child’s comprehension skills.
A Christmas film favourite, The Snowman, doesn’t have any words at all. It can be used as a fantastic stimulus to prompt language, for example you can ask what the characters may be saying or feeling, and why.
Discussing emotions and feelings in this way can be especially beneficial for children with autism, who often have difficulties with social communication, and expressing and understanding feelings.
TIP 10: Read and relax
There’s nothing quite like sitting on the sofa with a good book, perhaps in front of a warm fire.
Sometimes, dragging your child away from the iPad is part of the problem.
Thankfully, there are a number of Christmas-themed books available for children of all ages and abilities.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Roald Dahl’s The Twelve Days of Christmas
- The Girl Who Saved Christmas
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
- The Polar Express
- The Jolly Christmas Postman
Need a little extra help from a specialist SEN tutor in the New Year?
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At SENsational Tutors Ltd, we aim to inspire a love of learning through fun and exciting activities. We offer bespoke tutoring, communication and/ or behaviour support at home or in school.
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