Six Tips for Celebrating America’s Independence Day

Six Tips for Celebrating America's Independence Day imageIt is almost the Fourth of July, which for many families in the United States is a time of festivity and celebration as we commemorate our nation’s independence with colorful parades, juicy BBQ’s, loud concerts, and booming fireworks.  These activities can bring many changes in routine and sensory stimulations that may be exciting for some individuals, but difficult for others. Marji Voetberg, one of our teacher consultants, offers these tips for helping all members of your family be prepared and equipped for your Independence Day celebrations.

  1. Prepare children for what to expect.

    This could include showing pictures from a previous year (if you have them) and/or YouTube videos about what to expect during the day. Describe what your son or daughter might see, hear, taste, etc throughout the day. If necessary, discuss that the noises from fireworks are not dangerous sounds. You could include all of these items in a personalized SocialStory (see an example here) that highlights the day’s activities.

  2. Have a plan.

    Explain to your children how you expect to stay together at the event. For example, will everyone wear the same colored shirt? Or stay within a certain distance? Be sure to share what to do if you get split up.

  3. Bring the right tools.

    Especially for fireworks, it may be helpful to bring blankets (wrap your child in for deep pressure), ear plugs, sunglasses, etc. These tools can provide sensory input breaks/decreased input.

  4. Use a camera.

    If you’re headed to fireworks or an event where there is a lot going on, bring a camera that your son or daughter could use. Looking through the camera at the event brings the focus in to one object/event and may help your child feel less overwhelmed by all of the things that are going on.

  5. Talk about food.

    Be sure to discuss candy consumption guidelines in advance. This is particularly important if your son or daughter has any food allergies.

  6. Think ahead.

    In general, think about what triggers there may be for your child in any of the celebratory events. Prepare your child and yourself for how to handle those triggers.

Alternately, some families prefer to avoid Fourth of July celebrations because of the excitement. For these families, it may be a good idea to shut your windows and turn on any fans as loud as possible in the evening. Find a fun family activity or movie to enjoy that allows your family to spend quality time together indoors.

Regardless of what your family does, the main goal is to plan ahead for the holiday and prepare your family for what to expect.

Do you have additional ideas? Share them in the comment box below!

MarjiVoetbergMarji Voetberg is a teacher consultant for CLC Network.

 

 

 

 

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Six Tips for an Inclusive Christmas Program

Six Tips for an inclusive Christmas programIt’s Christmas time, and that means many of you are getting ready to plan your church Christmas program. So, how can you create an inclusive Christmas program for your students? How can you ensure that each child will fully participate in the joy of celebrating Jesus’ birth? I would like to share with you six helpful hints as you begin to plan your program.

1. Remember the Purpose

It’s easy to become so engrossed with the program, that we forget why we are doing it. Individuals with a disability may find it helpful to reread the Christmas story, to learn about it in a way that matters to them, and connect the story with what is happening during the actual Christmas program. Remembering the purpose can be helpful for the people planning it as well!

2. Offer a Preview

Christmas playBy offering a preview of what will happen in the program, individuals with a disability can know what to anticipate, which will allow them to feel more prepared.

You can offer a preview using pictures, words, or both. You can do this with a photo album, a PowerPoint, or story? It is helpful, however, to only put a sequence of events on your preview, and to keep it broad. That way, if something goes wrong, the child is less likely to know and become upset. This leads us to our next helpful hint…

3. Have a Plan B

We know that in any event, no matter how much we have planned, there is bound to be something that will not go as planned. So, it’s important for you to have a plan B. Discuss the different scenarios that might occur while the individual is participating, and, together, come up with a solution.

4. Think of their Physical and Emotional Needs

Be sure to think through the individual's sensory needs, such as spotlights, sound volume, and access to the front of the sanctuary.

Be sure to think through the individual’s sensory needs, such as spotlights, sound volume, and access to the front of the sanctuary.

Make sure you think through and anticipate any of the physical or emotional needs of the individual. A child may find it helpful to have cue cards held up during the program, or an aid/buddy to help guide him throughout the event. Sensory issues should be thought through as well, such as spotlights, sound volume, and access to the front of the sanctuary.

5. Structure, Structure, Structure

Creating structure for your friendwill ease a lot of anxiety for both of you. For example, write the child’s name on a piece of tape so he knows where to sit or stand. Practice with and without other people in the room. Record the songs or dialogue so that it can be practiced at home ahead of time. Lastly, have a chair available with the child’s name taped onto it when she doesn’t need to stand.

6. Dealing with Anxiety

If a child is truly anxious, provide a part that can be video taped ahead of time and then played in the program later. Also, include some friends in the taping so as to not single out the child or adult with a disability.

Additional resources:

Autism and Your Church by Barbara J. Newman

Supporting Persons with Disabilities through the Holidays

 

photo credit: hubertk via photopin cc

photo credit: hubertk via photopin cc

JJacki Sikkema photoacki Sikkema has a background in Special Education and currently serves in the Church Services Division at CLC Network.

Supporting Persons with Disabilities through the Holidays

A guide for parents, grandparents, and friends to use while supporting persons with disabilities through this season of celebration and change.

Note: Because this blog post was such a helpful resource for many individuals last holiday season, we wanted to share it with you again as you walk through the next few weeks of holiday festivities.

Brothers at ChristmasWhile the holidays often bring up those Hallmark memories for many of us, for some children and adults with disabilities, holidays signal an intense time of stress and distress. Often communicated with significant behavior changes, the underlying message might be “I’m overwhelmed”, “You changed my schedule”, “Why did you put a tree in our living room”, “There are too many people stuffed into this room”, or “I am on complete sensory overload”. While all of these ideas won’t work for everyone, here are some ideas for you to try to create a positive time of celebration for each family member.

1. Who needs to know? Many times extended families get together, and yet cousins or friends may not really understand the individual with the disability. It might be helpful for parents or the person with the disability to send out a quick update to family members prior to an event.  This update could include:

    •  “How Brent has grown this year”
    • “Activities and topics Brent enjoys doing or discussing”
    • “Activities and topics to avoid with Brent”
    • “Some things that Brent may really enjoy when we gather for Christmas”
    • “Some things that might be challenging for Brent at our Christmas celebration”
    • “Some gifts Brent might enjoy receiving”
    • “Some gifts to avoid”

      Christmas cookies

      Photo credit: chadmagiera http://flic.kr/p/5N2cD8

2.   “It is better to give than to receive” – and many times we think our family member with a disability should only be the recipient of gifts, and not the giver. How can that person use an area of interest or gifting to provide something for others? Would it be the gift of a dance or song? Could that individual provide the cookies for dessert? Might that person enjoy a trip to a dollar store to pick out something for each guest or family member? What about a wall decoration or a note card for each guest with a favorite picture of an animal or area of interest? Find a way for that individual to also receive the joy of giving.

3.   Prepare in advance a way your family member can participate in the holiday traditions. Be creative. Think of ways you have made the holiday meaningful and consider ways your family member with a disability may be involved. Some ideas you could try include:

Do you collect prayer requests or notes indicating things for which each family member is thankful to incorporate into the celebration? How might that family member participate? Would it be helpful to have pictures of familiar items so that the individual can point to or pick up the prayer request and hand it to the one praying?

How about singing? Could you have a colorful streamer or small rhythm instrument available so that a person without words could participate with movement?

How about programming a portion of Luke 2 on an iPad or other device so that pushing a button will allow an individual to read a portion of the Bible? Adding figures or using the manger scene on the mantel may be a way for an individual to better understand or even help move or tell the Christmas story.

Christmas scrapbook page

Create a Christmas album! Photo Credit: Dolce_Evita

4.   Use photos. Find some pictures of the celebration from last year. If it will be similar, put together a photo album or story of that event so that the individual can remember it in pictures and written words prior to attending a similar event this year.

5.   Put together a schedule of events for your party. Whether in words and/or pictures, let the person know the planned order. Some individuals enjoy crossing off or removing the individual schedule items as they are completed.

6.   Visit the room ahead of time. Many times we redecorate or rearrange rooms to fit more people. Consider setting it up a day ahead and visiting that room without people in it. Let the individual explore the changes without the added stress of people. Perhaps leave something on a chair or in a certain place so that you can “reserve a spot” for the event when you arrive. The individual will know to find that space or item to make a more comfortable entry.

Child photographer

Photo Credit: Threelfbybike

7.   Give that individual a “job” to do. Perhaps they could be the photographer, back massager, coffee or beverage server, greeter (be the first to arrive and assimilate guests more slowly – often a better choice for some persons), or card distributer. Many times, a helping role will not only use the gifts of an individual, but it gives the person a clear sense of what to do in that environment.

8.   Designate a “safe zone”. It might be helpful to show that family member a quiet and designated space in the home or building where there would be a calming and preferred activity. It might be a mini tramp, rocking chair, a favorite book, or quiet classical music in a more isolated space where one might be able to find a refuge if the senses get overloaded.

 

Some other posts you might like:

Christmas Gifts that Promote Child Development

Sharing the Christmas Story with Kids with Disabilities

Sharing Jesus with a Child with Down Syndrome 

 

photo credit: jeffsmallwood via photopin cc

 

Barbara J. Newman photoBarbara J. Newman is a church and school consultant at CLC Network and a special education teacher at Zeeland Christian School. She is the author of numerous books. She is a frequent national speaker at educational conferences and churches.

Tips for Celebrating the Holidays – Part 1

A holiday guide for parents, grandparents, and friends to use while supporting persons with disabilities through this season of celebration and change.

While the holidays often bring up those Hallmark memories for many of us, for some children and adults with disabilities, holidays signal an intense time of stress and distress. Often communicated with significant behavior changes, the underlying message might be “I’m overwhelmed”, “You changed my schedule”, “Why did you put a tree in our living room”, “There are too many people stuffed into this room”, or “I am on complete sensory overload”.

While all of these ideas won’t work with all people, here are some strategies for families and friends to try as you create a positive time of celebration for each family member.

  1. Find some pictures of the celebration from last year. If it will be similar, put together a photo album or story of that event so that the individual can remember it in pictures and written words prior to
    Photo Credit: Dolce_Evita

                      Create a photo album!                     Photo Credit: Dolce_Evita,   http://flic.kr/p/8YnyiM

    attending a similar event this year.

  2. Put together a schedule of events for your party. Whether in words and/or pictures, let the person know the planned order. Some individuals enjoy crossing off or removing the individual schedule items as they are completed.
  3. Many times we redecorate or rearrange rooms to fit more people. Consider setting it up a day ahead and visiting that room without people in it. Let the individual explore the changes without the added stress of people. Perhaps leave something on a chair or in a certain place so that you can “reserve a spot” for the event when you arrive. The individual will know to find that space or item to make a more comfortable entry.
  4. Give that individual a “job” to do. Perhaps they could be the photographer, back massager, coffee or beverage server, greeter (be the first to arrive and assimilate guests more slowly – often a better choice for
    Photo Credit: Threelfbybike

    Photo Credit: Threelfbybike, http://flic.kr/p/aTdmo8

    some persons), or card distributer. Many times, a helping role will not only use the gifts of an individual, but it gives the person a clear sense of what to do in that environment.

  5. Designate a “safe zone”. It might be helpful to show that family member a quiet and designated space in the home or building where there would be a calming and preferred activity. It might be a mini tramp, rocking chair, a favorite book, or quiet classical music in a more isolated space where one might be able to find a refuge if the senses get overloaded.
Stay tuned later this week for even more ideas!

Do you have tips you’d like to share? Post them in the comment box below!

Barbara J. Newman photoBarbara J. Newman is a church and school consultant for CLC Network and a special education teacher at Zeeland Christian School. She is the author of numerous books, including her latest Nuts and Bolts of Inclusive Education. She is a frequent national speaker at educational conferences and churches.