Five Tips to Happy Holiday Hosting if You Have a Child with Special Needs

With the holidays here, families are making plans to get together with loved ones. As a parent of special needs twins myself, it has always been easier for me to host than to take my twins to a new environment during an already very excitable time. Having visitors, especially if they are overnight visitors, is stimulating for typical children. When you have children with special needs, having company can be a bigger challenge. Here are some tips that will make your holiday visit go more smoothly.


  1. Prepare. Prepare your child for what visitors are coming. Showing your child pictures in a photo album if you have them, and talk about who is coming before they arrive.
  2. Educate. Your family and friends will be able to relate with your child easier and more appropriately for your child's level of understanding if you educate them on the best ways to do that prior to their arrival. If your child is nonverbal, teach your guests a few of their most used signs. If your child is sensitive to touch, hugs, perfumes, etc., let them know that ahead of time.
  3. Try to keep (at least some of) their schedule consistent. This is easier said than done this time of year, but can really help to minimize melt-downs. If the schedule is changing upside down one day, write out or use a picture schedule to allow your child to see what is planned instead of their "usual routine". We all like to know our day's schedule or what is "coming next", and children are no different.
  4. Allow for-- and schedule-- quiet times for your household as the visit allows so that your child does not get over stimulated or overwhelmed. This is good for typical children as well. The holidays sometime turn into a fever-pitch of activity. Be sure you allow all your child quiet times to calm and "reset".
  5. Enjoy! The holidays are first and foremost a celebration. Remember to have fun and enjoy your guests, and remember that most people visiting your home are there because they want to visit with you and your family and know up front your child has special challenges.

P.S. Holiday visitors and activities provide a perfect time to practice social skills, both in the house and during outings. Look for those teachable moments!

Katie Sullivan, M.S., SLP-CCC has been a pediatric Speech Language Pathologist for 22 years, and is a Therapy Supervisor with Theracare. She is the mother to five children, ages 7-17, including twin teenage sons with special needs. You can follow her at the My Sweet Homeschool blog, facebook, twitter, and instagram.