It is that time of year again. Grocery stores are stocking their shelves with turkeys, stuffing, and all the fixins. Plane tickets are purchased and cars are filled for travel. But when you add a loved one with a disability into the equation, plans tend to get a little more complicated. Here are a few tips to help make this holiday more enjoyable for you and your loved one.
1. Social stories are your best friend. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your loved one for a change in his or her routine. Start prepping them a week or two in advance. Remind your loved one how many days there are until Thanksgiving. Preparation is key!
2. Pack all the familiar things. You know the drill. That stuffie he or she can’t sleep without? Pack it. The favorite movie? Pack it. Headphones? Pack them. Electronics and chargers? PACK THEM! Make sure your have all of these items easily accessible. If flying, make sure everything is in a carry-on in case of lost luggage. Check the stores around you to see if you will be able to access any foods, medicines or extra supplies you may need in case you forgot anything.
3. Find a quiet and safe space for your loved one. Once you get to your destination, pick a safe and quiet spot for your loved one. Remind them that this is a special spot that they can use if they need a break or a quiet space. Remind family members and friends to keep this space open and available.
4. Prepare yourself. If you do nothing else on this list, do this. Families can be your biggest allies. Sometimes though, families can be your biggest critics. Prepare yourself for the fact that some family members may make comments about the behavior of your loved one, or their routine, their sounds, their electronic usage, etc. They may offer unsolicited advice, tell you about the next great treatment for your loved one’s disability or tell you that you just need to adapt your parenting skills. But the truth is, no one knows your loved one like you. YOU are the expert on him or her, not a well (or not well)-meaning family member. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of this.
5. Prepare your family. Tell your family members what kind of behaviors they might expect from your loved one—whether it is repeating the same part of Toy Story 4, or the loud screech they let out when overwhelmed. Sometimes, being aware of the unique qualities your loved one exhibits can help ward off some of those comments, or can prepare younger children with a deeper level of understanding that this is ok for your loved one.
Are there any Thanksgiving tips you would add?