Holiday Survival Tips for Families of Special Needs Children

(Springfield, MO) -- What some families consider holiday musts, others who have children with special needs may look at them more like holiday busts. 

"We decided a long time ago that we should make our own traditions," says mother Elizabeth Obrey.

With three autistic children, Obrey says she likes the holiday season but knows it needs careful consideration.

"The last place we want to be is a crowded place with flashing lights, people singing and jingling and being really merry."

She, like Chris Woodring of the Rivendale Center for Autism, know a simple change of routine during the holidays for their kids can quickly cause quite a bit of chaos.

"The minute they wake up, if they're out of town at grandparents' house, from the food, to the lights on the Christmas tree."

Woodring advises families with autistic children to bring routines on the road.

"If your child gets up every morning and eats two chocolate donuts and watches Veggie Tales for five minutes before they can start their day, let that go on."

Obrey says typical holiday traditions may need to be tweaked. 

"Instead of going to the mall to sit in Santa's lap, we might tip toe into our neighbor's yard and take pictures with their lawn decorations."

And when it comes to the dinner table, this mom prepares her children's' meals first, tailoring the food to their needs. Above all else, Obrey recommends against trying to be the perfect parent.

"Christmas is not a time to try to keep up with the Joneses. You do what works for your family."
Because in her household, the holidays are what she makes of them.

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