As with every holiday, Easter comes with it’s own excitement, traditions and potential for emotional meltdowns….for parents as well as children! Keep reading for some tips on how to make this Easter an enjoyable one.
Caution: Sensory Input Ahead!
Easter craft can be a super fun activity – all the fluffy feathers and sticky glue. For some children, craft activities can be overly stimulating and cause them extreme discomfort. This can present itself in a variety of ways, such as hiding under the table refusing to participate, or even being aggressive to the helpful child passing the basket of feathers.
Something as seemingly insignificant as the smell of an egg, the way the light hits the glitter paper or the gentle touch of a feather on their arm can be enough to cause a negative reaction. Having an awareness of your child’s sensory triggers, such as being tactile defensive (sensitive to touch/textures) and passing this information onto the teacher is a good way to minimise such incidents by modifying the activity. For example, can the students have the option to complete a colouring activity in a quiet area instead?
Whole school church services, assemblies and Easter parades often have loud noises, lots of people and can be a source of dread and anxiety for children with sensory processing issues. Something as simple as allowing your to chew a piece of gum, having a discrete fidget in their pocket, or facilitating the whole class to do a deep breathing exercise before leaving the classroom can minimise stress and anxiety. Your Occupational Therapist can help you to develop sensory strategies which meets the individual needs of your child.
The Sugar Rush
For many children, Easter has a strong association with chocolate eggs. Many parents try to limit the amount of sugar, processed foods and preservatives in their child’s diet, as it can affect their mood, sleep, concentration and general behaviour.
You can ask family and friends to give a small toy instead of an Easter egg to reduce the amount of chocolate in the house. And, to reduce the impact of a ‘sugar binge’, set up a visual system so the child know when they can have a piece of chocolate (and how much).
Easter egg hunts can be a fun family tradition and can be made into a super fun source of ‘therapy”’. It can help with gross motor skills, planning, organising and following instructions. You can limit the amount of Easter eggs by having a scavenger hunt! Instead of finding small chocolate eggs, have photo’s or written clues at specific locations around the yard, which will lead your child to the final prize….the Easter egg (one egg instead of 20…and loads of fun!).
Egg-citing Easter Events
Changes in the school routine can also cause a child to become stressed and overwhelmed. Not only are church services, assemblies and Easter hat parades a source of extreme sensory input, they are unpredictable!
Reduce the unpredictability of this change in routine by developing a visual schedule which displays the order of events throughout the day. A social story can help to frame the expectations for the day, and reduce the anxiety associated with these events.
Easter performances can further heighten anxiety and can provide additional challenges. Having to stand up in front of a crowd, squeezing in so close to others on stage, the bright lights, the loud music and the way the costume and face paints feels on their body can all be incredibly uncomfortable.
Having an awareness of the possible triggers can help you to put strategies in place to support your child. For example, can they stand to the outside of the group, wear earplugs or sunglasses (with Easter decorations of course), or wear clothing under the costume to reduce the impact?
Preparation is key!
If you are a parent of a child with additional needs, you will know how important preparation is! This might include letting your family, friends and the class teacher know about what helps and hinders your child.
Developing a social story for your child to explain what to expect during Easter, including Easter egg hunts or the Easter Hat Parade can also be helpful. Don’t forget to include in your social story who your child can ask for help, and where they can go when they feel overwhelmed.