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Enjoying the Season with a Child with Special Needs


This time of year, no family should miss festive holiday outings and opportunities to enjoy public celebrations.

Fortunately, Kristin Vespe, M.S.Ed., BCBA, Director of Bancroft’s Mobile Solutions, can offer suggestions to avoid problematic behaviors during this busy time of year.

Families with children with intellectual or developmental disabilities may be familiar with the emotional roller coaster that often accompanies disruptive or inappropriate behaviors in public settings. But parents and caregivers can be prepared to minimize the occurrence of problem behaviors and manage them when they do occur.

“Children and adolescents often respond well to a predictable schedule,” Vespe says. “Keep a visual calendar of events prominent in your home or classroom and review the day’s activities together.”

While planning your holiday events, attempt to minimize disruptions to routines. As a family, decide which seasonal events and outings are most important, and incorporate them into your family schedule well in advance. Provide concrete guidelines prior to the event and ample warning before traveling to the event.

If the event is likely to be long in duration or the environment is going to be busy or loud, plan ahead to take breaks from the activity before problem behaviors occur. A short break in a quiet area can make a big difference in new and exciting situations. Provide access to preferred items or activities for successful participation in these events.

“Encourage kids to participate together with their siblings,” says Vespe. “Create a family plan in which everyone feels included.”

While ample preparation can help considerably in preventing disruptions, families should also have the tools to de-escalate disruptive behavior.

If problem behaviors arise, minimize attention to the behavior and speak to the child using a neutral tone, while reminding him or her of your expectations.

While parents can’t prevent all disruptive behaviors, including children in the planning process and identifying behavior triggers can be simple but invaluable tools. With the right family plan, parents and siblings can minimize worry and stress when their holiday schedule becomes hectic and create fun, festive memories together.

If you or someone you know is seeking answers to questions about neurological health, Bancroft can help. Contact us at 1.800.774.5516 or visit to connect with an Access to Care specialist.
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