Despite the drama surrounding our hasty exit from public school and re-entry into homeschooling, this Christmas season has been wonderful for us.
First there was the awesome Santa, who just rolled with whatever Beth was doing as the camera was clicking. We missed the “Caring Santa” for special needs kids due to my poor planning, but I am glad we did. I simply walked up and put my kid next to this Santa on a week day when no one was around, and what transpired was magical. She loved him!
Next, she really loved all the Christmas lights and was totally tuned-in. We could drive around and she would tell me what she liked and what she was looking at if I asked. I could facilitate a mini-conversation and it was priceless.
And finally, we had the best “Christmas morning” ever (we opened presents early because we are traveling on Christmas eve to spend time with family in Florida). Although last year things started to get better, this Christmas morning was awesome. Part of it was kiddo is changing and more engaged with us, and her sensory and hand use is much better (so she can actually handle taking tissue out of bags, unwrap presents, and plunge her hand in the stocking without shrinking back in fear and frustration). The other part is I finally got it right! This is what I did to set us up for success:
- All toys were tested and had batteries put in place BEFORE I WRAPPED THE GIFTS. No waiting around to find and insert batteries or read instructions.
- We started with something we were certain would engage her. We started with the stocking, which a contained handful of her favorite candy (tootsie rolls). Beth was thrilled that Santa brought her tootsie rolls! She is an oral sensory seeker, what better way to start?
- We scaled it back. We had a limited number of presents so it would not be overwhelming.
- Even with a limited number of presents, we took breaks. Beth took a decaf coffee break, we took a caf coffee break during the unwrapping. We took it very SLOOOOW.
- I chose the toys very, very carefully. I even took her to the toy store to gauge interest and test the toys (mostly to get the hand-use level right) before I bought her presents.
- The toys were at the appropriate developmental level. Some were considered toddler toys, some were not. I simply paid no attention to the age on the package whatsoever.
- I limited super-stim toys to 1 toy and left it for last. No sense in hastening a tune-out with super-stim toys!
- I only included one “boring developmental toy” and I sweetened the deal by hiding her favorite candy in it. This is a great toy, where we can work on greetings and keys, but it took a tootsie roll hiding behind each door to make it special and engaging to Beth on Christmas morning.
All and all I think it was about as perfect as we could have hoped for. And man, we were due for a really good Christmas morning!