Coping With Challenged Children During The Holidays

December 12, 2011 Updated Dec 12, 2011 at 9:44 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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December 12, 2011 Updated Dec 12, 2011 at 9:44 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( WKBW ) Theresa Drum from the Parent Network joined Patrick Taney and Ginger Geoffery on "Eyewitness News This Morning" to discuss How Children With Sensory Processing Disorder Handle The Hustle and Bustle Of The Holidays"

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing is…

• The ability to take in, sort out, and connect information from the world around us

• It occurs on an unconscious level… whereas thinking and cognition are more conscious processes

Sensory Processingbecomes a disorder when sensory difficulties negatively impact daily living, relationships, learning, and behavior

What it can look like:

Parent Network provided a workshop on Sensory Processing Disorders last week and I asked parents in the group to tell me about some of their challenges during the holidays.

· Meltdowns – temper tantrums – extended family and people in the community not understanding that the behavior is because of their disability and not a discipline problem

· Families often feel pressure and appreciation at the same time when well-intentioned family members ask why the family is not coming over

· Clothing can be a very touchy subject - the clothing that makes the child successful in an overwhelming environment may be very soft clothes like sweatpants and a well washed t-shirt.

What to do:

Over the holidays in preparation for family gatherings I would suggest

· Don’t overbook – no rushing from one place to another

· Select gifts that will be sensitive to their challenges and support their strengths.

· Technology can be a great gift – if you don’t know what to get – give a gift card and let the family consult the child’s occupational therapist or teacher.

· Address the elephant in the room

o Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles: learn what you can about the child’s disability especially if sensory information seems overwhelming or underwhelming - just doesn’t seem to stay alert or engaged

o Talk to the child about what you learn and ask them what works for them. One family taught their young child to say that SPD was their superpower. Turned it into a positive which could then be used.

o Play detective – watch this holiday season and make notes for the next one – what happened right before the meltdown, what was the environment like, what type of clothing were they wearing.

Where to go for more information:

Parent Network is excited that we have been awarded a grant to support and educate families and the community to “Prevent the Storm” that often occur when a disability presents with challenging behaviors. The formal announcement about this new program will be coming after the first of the year.

If you think someone you know may have extra difficulty coping with the hustle and bustle of the holidays reach out to us. Parent Network serves the 8 counties of WNY. Workshops on many disability topics and special education are offered throughout the region. If you have further questions or would like to find out about upcoming workshops call our Information and Referral line at 332-4175.