Christmas is hard. We think of it as a joyous time for children. We love seeing their eyes light up in wonder at the bright lights, sparkly decorations, and delectable sweet treats. But for students with neurological or psychological disorders such as autism, ADHD, emotional disabilities, or other cognitive disabilities, it’s a horrifying nightmare.
First, there’s the sensory overload of the lights, the trees, the bright reds, and greens. Scientific studies show that children with neurological disorders have a more intense reaction to colors. These students have a heightened awareness of their environment and any slight change in sound, lighting, and colors, have a pronounced impact on their ability to remain calm. Visual changes such as Christmas decorations are bombarding piercing shouts to their brain. Holidays for these kids and their families are just plain hard.
Think about it. When you live in a world where sounds, touch, and smells are louder and stronger, where lights are more glaring and color is more intense, you’re not going to manage easily at the best of times. Add in the stress of changes in schedules, chaotic school activities, and all the other hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and you’re ripe for an emotional meltdown.
And since I am the behavior skills teacher at my school, with the privilege of working with students with autism, I’ve opted not to put anything different in my room this season. My room is where the students come to calm themselves, take sensory breaks, and have a retreat from the noisy, chaotic, glaring world out in the regular classroom. I love creating a calming space for them. And I think they appreciate it, too.
I don’t know about you, but I, too, experience sensory overload this time of year. Often, I don’t enjoy it at all. (Maybe I’m on the spectrum! Who knows?) How about you? Do you have a calming place to go this season to give your eyes and ears and brain a break? How do you cope with holiday stress? Let me know in the comments below! And have a very happy Christmas! (In the meantime, I’m – a – gonna take a little time to get away from the hustle and bustle.) If you need me, you know where to find me!