Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, all the twinkly lights, festive music and of course the amazing food. But for families with disabled children it can also be one of the most stressful times.
Shops changing their decor, adding flashing lights and playing music can all cause sensory concerns for disabled children. Christmas shopping can be difficult with a child in a wheelchair because it is so busy and lack of space becomes an even bigger issue than usual.
Plus the shops all whacking their heating up to ‘tropical’ setting means the additional stress of taking coats on and off, which is not an easy task when your child is in a wheelchair and doesn’t bend their elbows or lean forwards! Although our new rear fastening coat from Willow Bug does help a little with this problem!
And of course, the day itself can come with it’s own complications. But you know me, always looking for solutions, so I asked other families for their feedback and came up with a list of a few things which would help make life easier over the festive period. Both for us and our children.
Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Don’t be offended if they turn down your invitation
It’s not that they don’t want to spend time with you over Christmas, they really do. It’s simply that it is difficult for them to do so at your house. If they say they can’t come to yours but you’re welcome at theirs, they really do mean that. It is far easier to be in their own home because they have space, they have all their supplies handy and their children are comfortable there.
Help with Christmas dinner
This one is pretty obvious to be honest! We have had 16 people at our place for Christmas dinner in the past, which sounds really stressful (and expensive) but it really wasn’t. You can make Christmas dinner simple for the hosts (whether they have a disabled child or not) by splitting the preparation (and cost) between guests. Each guest can prepare and brings one dish with them, be it the potatoes, veg or even the stuffing.
This has worked so well for us in the past and has meant I’ve only had to worry about the turkey!
If they accept your invitation, make space for them!
Wheelchairs take up a lot of room and we appreciate it’s not very convenient for you to rearrange everything. But if you really want them to come you’re going to have to make a few, temporary and minor adjustments!
Don’t make space for a wheelchair at the dinner table without putting any thought to clearing space to get there!
If there isn’t room for a wheelchair anywhere else in the house then make sure everyone stays in the area that there is space because there is nothing worse than being left behind while everyone else is having fun together in another room. Either include them in all rooms, or ask everyone to stay in the wheelchair accessible room.
Also remember they might need to use your toilet or have somewhere to be changed while they are with you. Ask the parents how you can help make sure there is somewhere suitable for them.
Don’t forget to lay a place at the Christmas table for a child who cannot eat.
Just because they can’t eat a Christmas dinner doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel included.
Don’t forget their children’s needs, or expect them to change simply because it is Christmas.
If a child is scared of adults in fancy dress throughout the year, that is not going to change simply because it’s Christmas! So, please don’t turn up dressed as Santa without asking parents first!
If you know a child can only eat pureed foods, or can’t eat at all, don’t be insensitive and buy them a chocolate Santa or a selection pack simply because it’s Christmas.
Be mindful of children’s medical conditions
Flashing lights might look lovely and give that christmassy feeling, but they can also cause seizures in a child (or adult) with epilepsy. So if you are asked to put the lights on static, please don’t be offended.
If you aren’t sure what to buy, ask!
We struggle to think of Christmas presents for our children so we don’t expect you to know what they’d like or understand what they can / can’t play with. So instead of guessing and buying something that will never be used, please just ask us!
We sometimes suggest money for therapies and this might seem like a boring present but it really is one of the most valuable gifts you could give. If you want to make it a bit more fun, wrap it in some fun paper (William loves noisy paper!) and add a packet of bubbles or something funny like a whoopie cushion!
I hope these few tips might help you to make Christmas easier for families like mine, but if in doubt, please always ask how you can make it easier!
What tips would you add? Leave a comment below, your suggestions could really help others