Making Diwali joyous for children with special needs
Tips for making Diwali joyous for children with special needs
Diwali and the holidays following Diwali can bring a whirlwind of activities for children. Children are eager to celebrate the auspicious day and all the festivities that follow. But for some children, especially children with sensory processing issues, autism, or learning disabilities, the bright lights, buzzing households, loud blasts of fireworks, and the new itchy clothes, can create stress and induce anxiety. In some children, the stress may come out in the form of anger or yelling, running all over, or crashing into people or objects, they may also have meltdowns or seem a bit overexcited. But a little planning can go a long way, here are some tips to make sure you’re ready to celebrate and make Diwali joyous for children with special needs.
Making Diwali joyous for children with special needs – Prepare a schedule
Children with ADHD and Autism thrive when they’re on a schedule. If you plan the whole day in advance, it empowers them to be ready for what must be done on Diwali day. This will also help them in relaxing and enjoy Diwali more. Each child with special needs has unique challenges.
Similarly, the Diwali traditions in every single household are different. So, one cannot make the same schedule that works for all children. However, here is a good example of a Diwali day schedule that you can tailor according to your child’s needs-
- Wake up and get ready
If in your household you have a tradition of getting up early on Diwali day, communicate that with your children as some children may get anxious if they are woken up earlier than usual.
- Have Breakfast
A well-fed child will be less cranky and if your Diwali breakfast menu includes foods that are not part of your child’s regular diet, explain to them about the special dishes that they will get to taste. But, if your child is averse to trying new dishes, do give them their regular breakfast instead.
- Wear New Clothes
Most households prefer wearing new clothes on Diwali day, involve your child in choosing their clothes and accommodate their preferences in shopping. If they don’t like wearing itchy or full-sleeved clothes, consider that. They will enjoy Diwali only if they’re comfortable with the colours and textures of the fabric.
- Guests Arrive
Prepare your child in advance about the number and type of guests that you are expecting. If the guest list includes people unfamiliar to your, give them a brief description of each person that is likely to come to visit. Let the child be in a safe place if they get anxious during social meetings and let them relax. It is not a good idea to force them to meet people and socialize.
Fireworks are the most exciting and at times the most uncomfortable part of Diwali for children. Children may not be comfortable with certain fireworks but may enjoy some others. Talk to your child about what their preferences are, if they don’t enjoy sudden bursts of light or loud noise avoid firecrackers that do so.
Making Diwali joyous for children with special needs – Reach out
If you’re planning to celebrate with your friends or family let them know about your child’s issues e.g., potential food restrictions. You must also inquire about the various sensory events that will take place and can trigger your child e.g., Aarti with open flames, fireworks, etc. so you can prepare your child in advance. Also, let the host know if your child is unable to participate in some activities so that they or other similar-aged peers do not pressure them to take part.
If your child is undergoing therapy in the form of occupational therapy or counseling, practice some of the therapies before the event, so that your child is well-regulated and calm upon arrival. Bring aids that will provide your child the comfort they need and calm them down, like fidget toys, books, or their favourite candy, etc.
Try going to gatherings that are small with less people, this will reduce some anxiety in your child, and it will be more enjoyable than large parties.
Making Diwali joyous for children with special needs –Create a support team
Create a support team comprising of your spouse, siblings, and extended family members like grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Share the above concerns with them too – especially if you are celebrating events together. Ask them for support in events that might require some additional supervision or if someone needs to be with your child when you need to take a break. Plan and envision how you might want the night to go.
During the whole day keep checking in on your child. Keep an eye out for signs your child might be in distress or is feeling overwhelmed. Offer them a shoulder or leg massage or give them hugs with a lot of pressure to give them a feeling of comfort.
Every child wants to have fun during the festive season. You just have to learn and find ways that will make this Diwali joyous for your child.