When your child has a disability or special needs, holidays often bring challenges and Easter is no different. Here are some you might encounter this Easter along with tips to help you prepare your child.
Photos with the Easter Bunny
Getting a photo with the Easter Bunny is a big thing in the US and is becoming more common here in Ireland. Typically, the Easter Bunny is in a shopping centre where there are lots of people, lights and sounds – not an ideal environment for any child with sensory issues.
If you pass this first hurdle and get into the mall, another obstacle awaits – the line to see the Easter Bunny. Now your sensory sensitive child is confined in a small, noisy area with other children.
Finally, when it is your turn, your child sees the Easter Bunny up close. Your child may cry or try to run away because, like Santa, the Easter Bunny can terrify young children. He doesn’t look like a real bunny and is big and scary! Even if you manage to get the elusive photo with Mr Bunny, it might not be a happy one!
To avoid a disaster, prepare your child in advance. Use a social story to teach your child what to expect when visiting the Easter Bunny. Free social stories about Easter are available on the internet, or you can make your own. When you bring your child to see the Easter Bunny, pack some items to entertain your child during the wait. Finally, don’t forget some sensory protection such as ear defenders or glasses.
Easter Egg Hunts
Most Easter egg hunts have rules to ensure fairness and children have no problem following them. Problems arise when exceptions are made that children don’t understand. For example, if the rule is that the first person to spot the egg gets it, why do you have to give the egg to the younger child right behind you? If adults are not supposed to help, why is a mother assisting a toddler? These “grey areas” confuse children and may upset children with autism who tend to take words literally.
Advance preparation is the key to avoiding upset and meltdowns. Social stories are a great way to provide an overview of activities for children with special needs and to explain unwritten rules. Remember to reinforce what you teach your child a few times before starting an event such as an Easter egg hunt.
Everyone is in his or her best clothes for church services on Easter Sunday. Nevertheless, trying to get your child, who may live in tee shirts and sweatpants, into a regular shirt and trousers is difficult.
If you manage to get your child to wear Easter clothes, get ready for the scratching and complaining to start. Easter clothes are not sensory friendly. As a parent, you must decide if putting your child in special clothes for Easter is worth it, especially if they will be uncomfortable.
For many families, religious services are a big part of Easter. However, bringing your special needs child to Easter Sunday service is another challenge. The challenge begins with the Easter outfits discussed above. Then, you face multiple sensory challenges when you get to your house of worship.
On Easter Sunday, you face large, noisy crowds of people as you enter and leave your religious service. Once inside your child must contend with more noises, lights and smells. Then they are expected to sit still and stay quiet. And if they don’t, you may get rude stares or comments from strangers.
Bring items including snacks to help your child pass the time during the service. Consider sitting close to an exit so you can take s short break with your child.
As parents of children with special needs, we already have plenty of stress in our lives. Holidays are about making memories with your family – not about achieving perfection. Enjoy the day and don’t worry if things aren’t perfect. Aim for a happy day for the whole family. Happy Easter!