As a Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist who specializes in feeding and treats children from both a sensori-motor standpoint, I have compiled a letter that you might find useful for the upcoming holidays. In the past, this has been a VERY stressful time for some of our families. We’ve always suggested drafting a letter to the host ahead of time, but this year we are doing it FOR you! So here it is…a letter that you can use and/or adapt to your little (or big!) sprout. It’s yours for the taking… copy it to word and edit as you see fit. Happy Holidays!
Dear Family and Friends,
We are excited to see everyone and spend time together this holiday season. Before the big meal we would like to share a few things about our little guy/gal, _________. Our son/daughter is sweet, loving, and _______. He/she loves to play with _______, ________, ______. We will bring these items along to make sure s/he is occupied.
For Verbal children: S/he loves to talk about _____ and _____ (e.g., paw patrol, Doc McStuffins) and might talk your ear off sharing the latest from his _______ (e.g., PJ Masks) adventures.
For Non-Verbal children: S/he loves to communicate but does not yet speak. Please understand if you ask him/her a question you may get a head shake for yes/no but may not get much more beyond that. Please don’t take this personally. This is something we work on daily to increase speech/language skills.
He/she also has been blessed with _____ (insert diagnosis if you want to share); which is just one piece of who he/she is. That said, this makes the holiday season a challenge for him/her. All of the family, friends, decorations, sounds, sights, tastes and aroma’s that surround the holidays bring anxiety for ______. The anxiety generally stems from the unknown, which is a result of the changes in his/her typical daily routine; a routine which he/she thrives on. When _____ knows what is coming next or can anticipate it, he/she performs at his/her best. We do our best to prepare _____ ahead of time so he/she knows what to expect but please understand there are some strategies that we would love for you to help us put in place to make this the best holiday for everyone.
- Please know he/she is not ignoring you.When you talk to him/her, he/she may not respond. Sometimes he/she may be attending elsewhere, may be trying to regulate how they feel in the new environment, and it’s also possible that he/she did not understand you because of focus elsewhere. This is not because he/she does not have the knowledge, it is because of the distractions in the environment and the surrounding anxiety. Simply put, _________ needs extra time to process what is asked of him/her.
- Sometimes _______ needs a quiet spacewith the lights dimmed to re-center themselves before processing what you are trying to share with or ask of him/her. If he/she gets up and walks away without responding, please do not take it personally. Please have a space where he/she can venture off to when this need arises. This room should be dedicated to ______ and us (mom/dad) for the time that we are visiting. This will help us all regroup and take on the new challenges that arise after we have re-centered _____.
- _______ may engage in repetitive behaviors.These may look like waving his/her hands when excited, opening and closing objects, repeating words and other behaviors repeated again and again. This is done as a way to regulate his/her environment. This is not intentional but is helpful so please understand it may look different but it is very helpful to ________. If you can tolerate it and respect that this is what helps __________ we would greatly appreciate it!
- _______ is not bossy but may appear that way.This is a result of his/her monotone speech production and a way of coping with the anxiety.
- _______ is used to doing things in a routine way.If you notice behaviors that you are uncomfortable with please let me (mom/dad) know and we will help _______ redirect him/herself and his/her behavior. We do not expect you to do this by any means!
- _______ is used to moving around when eating a meal.Please know it is very challenging for __________ to sit still for a long period of time and is used to taking movement breaks. This generally results in him/her getting up and sitting back down in his/her chair constantly throughout a given meal. The smells, textures of foods, taste, size, temperature all give input to ________’s mouth and sensory system. Sometimes this can be extremely overwhelming so this may be one of those times where _____ needs to take a break in the designated quiet room. Regardless, we are working on avoiding attention to these behaviors, which has helped to descrease them quite a bit.
- Please don’t be offended if he/she eats cheerios or the yogurt I bring over your delicious meal you spent 3 days preparing!Feeding is a daily challenge for us as a result of the sensory/motor challenges ________ experiences. He/She has learned that certain foods in certain packages are safe for digestions so when we deviate from those known foods, we tend to have what looks like a very picky and unhappy eater. I will bring the foods I know he/she will eat so they can choose if they want to participate in eating when everyone else eats.
- We do not expect you to change anything about your holiday.We are so happy and grateful to be included and do not expect you to change anything about your holiday. Please just be aware of the anxiety that surrounds all of the new experiences for ________ and be open to learning about how we can best accommodate our little one. Kindness, even if it is not understood, goes a long way.
- Last but not least, please don’t judge us.It has taken a long time for us to figure out how to make the holidays enjoyable for everyone (to the best of our ability). If it were easy, I wouldn’t have had to write this note. But, being that it is a daily challenge, I only felt it would be fair to accept your holiday invitation with a description of what to expect when _______ joins us this holiday.
We really are excited to see everyone and to be included in the holiday plans. _______ is looking forward to it and we are doing everything in our power to prepare him/her for the holiday experience this year. Please call with any questions.
The XXX Family
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I miss anything? Should we add more? Comment below!