The Five “P”s for Reducing Holiday Stress

We can’t promise you a stress-free holiday season any more than we can promise you a white Christmas, but there are some common sense tips which can help children with disabilities (and their parents!) make it to the end of the holiday season relatively unscathed. We call them the Five “P”s

Gingerbread CookieWe should stress – no pun intended – that when you mix family gatherings, religious or cultural traditions, crowds, noise, lights and sometimes travel, no one is immune to the stress. It’s not just a child with autism who may become over-stimulated or a child with a physical disability who may be exhausted or frustrated. The annual holiday season “melt-down” is to be expected from children of all types and abilities, and maybe some grown-ups too.

The key is managing expectatons. Knowing what is most likley to cause stress for your child during the holidays and having a plan for that eventuality is the easiest route to minimizing problems.

PREPARING

It starts with preparing both your child and your family for what’s to come. Start early with holiday stories, books and movies to help your child understand what it’s all about. Practice traditions in small doses such as a trial-run at a formal sit down dinner with just the immediate family before you add in aunts, uncles and cousins. Take a trip to church or synagogue and explain what will be different about the ceremonies during the holidays. Play holiday music around the house or experiment with lighting candles if that will be something new for your child.  If your child uses a walker or a wheelchair, practice navigating through Uncle John’s house or whereever you are likely to spend time during the festivities if you can.

PLANNING

Then have a solid plan for when things don’t go as expected. Set up an escape route or a safe space so the child can retreat if things get to be too much. Let your friends and relatives know that this isn’t a big deal and there’s no need to make a fuss if your child needs to take a break. Bring a favorite toy from home, a snack, or an iPad to offer your child when they don’t want to – or can’t – go with the flow. Reassure your child that they can take a break anytime they wish and go over how to do so – maybe even set up a code word so your child can signal you that they are having a hard time without drawing too much attention to themselves.

PARTICIPATION

Make sure there is a way they can participate. Scope out venues and ask about holiday gathering plans ahead of time to find a way for your child to be included in the festivities to whatever extend they feel comfortable. Will they be able to be placed at the same table with everyone during dinner? Will they have a good view of the holiday pageant? Will they be included in games with other children? Figure out how this can happen and prepare any necessary accommodations ahead of time.

PAMPERING

Be sure to have everything necessary for your child to be as comfortable as they would normally be at home. Don’t force outfits that are itchy, or dress shoes that are tight just for the sake of appearances. And, don’t expect them to stay up far later, walk far further or stand or sit far longer than they normally would just because it’s a “special occasion.”

PATIENCE

Don’t rush. And, don’t overbook! Tell your relatives and friends that you expect them to be flexible. If you miss the beginning of services or don’t stay for dessert, that is just a fact of life that isn’t going to ruin anything. For a child with a disability it may take longer to get ready, or to get from one place to another and things will simply have to go at a slower pace. The more relaxed you are about time, the more relaxed your child will be as well.  After all, the season is about so much more than gifts and parties. It’s about celebrating together as a family – a family that includes a child with a disability.

 

Happy Holidays!

 

5 brettapproved™ travel tips

Guest blog post by Brett Heising
                                   brettapproved.com

Originally appeared as a blog post on brettapproved’s website on April 11, 2014.

 brett

 
When you start a travel and entertainment website for people with disabilities, it stands to reason that you, well, enjoy traveling. That’s certainly the case with me. But why? Because life is defined by experiences and there’s nothing better than exploring someplace new.

With this spirit of adventure in mind, I thought I’d share my top 5 travel tips:

 

5. Get to the airport early. This gives me time to explain to every airline employee I encounter that my wheelchair is much more than a piece of luggage — it’s an extension of me. Doing so makes me feel better. It also gives airline employees an opportunity to examine life from my perspective.

Arriving early also means I won’t be pressed for time going through security. The “male assist” also known as the “male PA” is a bit awkward for all parties involved. I always remind myself that this particular security protocol isn’t the highlight of the TSA agent’s day either.

I mean really, who wakes up and says: “I can’t wait to slap on a pair of disposable rubber gloves and feel sensitive areas of a stranger’s body with the back of my hand! Today’s gonna be awesome!” I’ll tell ya who … NOBODY.

 

4. No airline or hotel employee wants to make a mistake. People aren’t perfect. Mistakes are inevitable. When mistakes happen, I try my best to keep cool and work with them (whoever  “them” may be) to resolve issues as cordially as possible. While erupting might feel better in the short-term, it solves nothing.

Now, lest you think I’m perfect, I’ve had plenty of frustrating experiences. I find venting to someone you love after the fact (thank you Claudia!) is extremely helpful. Note: If Claudia’s not available a couple drinks from the hotel bar work wonders!

Sidebar: If something happens to your chair/mobility device and you’re in a bind, give my friends at scootaround.com a call. I met some Scootaround team members recently and they exemplify the organization’s “can-do” culture. I haven’t needed the company’s services yet, but I love having a back-up plan.

 

3. There’s no substitute for more time. When I’m traveling on business, arriving to my hotel a day early, before a conference starts, and getting the lay of the land has proven invaluable time and again. If there’s a mix-up with my room I have time to solve it. If I’m meeting clients off-site for dinner, I have time for some restaurant reconnaissance. What can I say? I’m a belt & suspenders kind of guy.

 

2. Take time to explore. Even the busiest business traveler needs to eat. Hence, when afforded the opportunity: Eat local! Explore local! Celebrate local! I LOVE Chipotle and Starbucks as much as anybody, I really, honestly do, but when in Rome …

And now (drumroll please) with out further ado …

 

1. Attitude is everything. I constantly remind myself and the young adults I’m privileged to mentor that we have absolutely zero control regarding how other people treat us. However, we have completecontrol over how we treat and react to them. If someone isn’t giving me the respect I deserve for example, I won’t take the bait because I want the individual I’m speaking with to know that what they may lack in civility, I more than make up for by way of my own self-respect.

 

So there you have it, five travel tips from brettapproved. Earth shattering? Nope. Worth remembering? Absolutely! If you have any travel tips or advice you’d like to share with our readers email me at brett@brettapproved.com and above all, travel confidently my friends.