Maneuvering the holidays with special-needs family members
CONROE, Texas -- To most, the crowds, twinkling lights, and busyness that adorn the holidays bring a sense of joy, wonder and excitement. However, to those with disabilities or special needs it can be a stressful time of year. The disruption to routine, the unfamiliar noises and smells, and the chaotic environments can be a recipe for stress and sensory overload.
Luckily, a local rehabilitation program for those with disabilities has tips on how to make the most of an outing, especially around the holidays for you and your loved ones.
“The most important thing to us is that our clients feel like they belong,” said Rachel Jelks, owner of T.E.A.M. Abilities, Inc., a provider for individuals with disabilities where Together Everyone Achieves More. “We strive to make opportunities for them to be out in the community all year in our day outings and work programs because we know how important it is for a person’s quality of life to have a sense of belonging, in the family and in the community. Outings must always be managed carefully, but during the holidays it can be especially overwhelming for those with sensory issues.”
To make your holiday outings as stress-free and enjoyable as possible, Rachel gives some tips below:
Being prepared can mean the difference between an enjoyable outing and a disaster. “Being prepared is the most important aspect,” said Jelks. “Making sure you have everything they could need such as special food, medications or other necessities during the outing means you won’t be caught off-guard.”
Call ahead to find out what you can and can’t do with certain disabilities. “We always make sure that we call ahead to find out what accommodations they have that we will need,” Jelks said. “If they do not have handicap parking, we will need to bring more help so we can drop them off and go park the car. Or if we need wheelchair access we call ahead to discuss the ramp accessibility and space to move.”
Know the limits and triggers of those with you. By understanding how those with disabilities operate and what their signs are when they are uncomfortable such as pacing or fidgeting hands, it is easy to avoid meltdowns.
Find special holiday programs in your community for those with disabilities. These special events often include dimmed lighting and sound for those that are highly sensitive. Some Chuck E. Cheeses around the country promote “Sensory Sensitive Sundays” for those with autism and several movie theatres have special showings all year round.
“Our job is to help them adjust and live in the world,” says Jelks. “Sometimes that may mean we have to have realistic expectations at what they can handle and be prepared to leave if it gets too much for them. But seeing their smiles and enjoyment makes it all worth it.”
T.E.A.M. Abilities, Inc., is a provider for individuals with developmental disabilities located at 4572 FM 1960 Rd W. Houston, TX 77069. For more information about their services including their Day Rehabilitation Program please call 832-965-5549 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.