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Unlocking joy: Inclusive holiday ideas for children with speech and language differences

Updated: Dec 5, 2023



The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and connection. But for kids with speech or language disorders, it can also bring unique challenges. In this guide, we'll explore ways to support your child during the holidays, fostering communication skills and creating an inclusive environment for memorable celebrations.



Understanding Your Child's Needs


1. Awareness and Patience

It all starts with awareness and patience. As parents and caregivers, understanding the unique communication needs of your child is crucial. The holidays can be overwhelming, so being patient and tuned into your child's cues is the first step in creating a supportive environment.


This might look like:


  • Recognizing your child is getting sleepy and starting their bedtime routine as close to the usual time as possible.

  • Sitting across the table from your child at an extended-family dinner so you can have face-to-face conversations.

  • Talking about your upcoming visit to Santa to give your child an idea of what to expect, reducing any negative reactions.

2. Educate Friends and Family

Share knowledge about your child's speech or language disorder with friends and family. Consider providing resources or organizing a casual gathering to explain the challenges your child faces. Increased awareness leads to empathy and better support from those around you.


This might look like:


  • Asking Grandma to reduce the number of questions she asks when you visit, or maybe spacing the questions out across the evening.

  • Texting a picture of your child's AAC device, or a screenshot of their favorite tabs/icons on the device, to your extended family so they can be better prepared to communicate with your child.

  • Disclosing that your child stutters to guests at your dinner party, and showing them how to appropriate respond. (Make sure your child is okay with you sharing this information first!)



Communication Strategies


1. Visual Supports

Introduce visual aids like picture schedules or cue cards. These tools provide a helpful structure during holiday activities, making it easier for your child to understand and participate in the festivities.


This might look like:


  • Visiting the website or social media pages of the holiday event you're attending this weekend and printing pictures for your child to preview.

  • Using a visual countdown calendar for important events like the class holiday party, last day of school before break, or Aunt Betty's visit.


2. Encourage Non-Verbal Communication

Encourage non-verbal communication through methods such as gestures, sign language, or drawing. Incorporate these into holiday traditions, making them not only enjoyable but also inclusive for everyone.


This might look like:


  • Talking about the holiday lights and naming different decorations you see as your child points to them (like candy canes, nutcrackers, snowmen, reindeer, and more!).

  • Drawing pictures of the gifts they received this holiday to show to friends and extended family members when they ask.

  • Teaching family members the signs for "more", "all done", and "please" so they can all help your child during big family meals.



Inclusive Holiday Activities


1. Adapted Games and Activities

Suggest holiday games that can be easily adapted for different communication styles. Games like charades or Pictionary can be modified to suit the needs of your child, ensuring everyone can participate.


Other adaptable games and activities:


  • Building/construction - imaginative play with no rules or competition!

  • Art projects - use open-ended prompts to encourage self-expression.

  • Music and movement - Use simple songs with repetitive lyrics to encourage participation and verbalization.


2. Storytelling and Role-Playing

Boost language skills through storytelling and role-playing activities. Engage your child in creating holiday-themed stories or plays, fostering creativity and communication in a fun and interactive way.


This might look like:


  • Brainstorming silly scenarios for your "Elf on the Shelf" to get into in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

  • Encouraging your child to participate in reading by pointing to pictures, acting out parts of the story, or creating their own version.

  • Involving your child in real holiday tasks such as baking cookies, making shopping lists, cleaning the house for guests, or packing for a fun winter trip (this works on executive functioning skills!).



Creating a Supportive Environment


1. Designated Quiet Spaces

Recognize the need for quiet spaces during festive gatherings. Designate a calming area where your child can take a break if needed. This space provides a retreat when the holiday excitement becomes a bit overwhelming.

2. Empower your Child

Involve your child in decision-making processes. Empower them to communicate their needs and preferences. This not only builds confidence, but also ensures they feel heard and valued during holiday celebrations.



Conclusion


With understanding, patience, and the right strategies, the holidays can be a joyous time for every kid, regardless of their communication abilities. By incorporating these tips into your holiday plans, you're not only supporting your child, but also fostering an inclusive and memorable holiday experience for the whole family.


Remember, every small effort contributes to a more compassionate and joyful holiday season. Share your experiences and tips in the comments below – I'd love to build a community that supports one another on this journey!




Give your child the invaluable gift of speech & language through therapy with The Magic Speech Bus. This is the solution to the communication frustration you and your child have been experiencing! Click the button below to schedule a free discovery call and get started today.





BONUS: Holiday AAC board


Download the .pdf file below to access a "winter holiday" communication board to use throughout the season. You and your child can point to different icons on the board to expressive your wants, thoughts, and needs related to common holiday activities.


winter holiday board
.pdf
Download PDF • 842KB

Boardmaker is a trademark of Tobii Dynavox LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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