Celebrating with Special Needs* This picture isn’t really related to the post, but it’s so adorable I had to share.

A holiday is coming up. Maybe even your favorite holiday. Dreams of relaxing and celebrating, enjoying good food and time together as a family bubble up in your brain. You hope and you dream and….then reality sets in.

Life as a special needs family can be lonely. So many typical family activities are not possible for one reason or another. But, after awhile it’s easy to live day-to-day in your reality because, well, it’s your reality. It’s your normal. And it has to be done. But on a holiday when everyone is celebrating it can magnify just how atypical your family is.

As a mom of a special needs child, I spend a lot of time doing therapies, working on the back-end coordinating care for my son, and protecting his time so he gets plenty of rest and good food and a calm environment so he can spend his energy learning and growing. I don’t have a lot of time during the week to foster relationships with other moms. Going to playgroups is not an option when you’re trying to fit in 2 or 3 therapy sessions a week, plus other doctors appointments, and work to earn a paycheck. Weeks go by without me having meaningful conversation with anyone but my husband (I don’t count talking to therapists about my son). Then a holiday comes up. I of course haven’t had time to plan anything, and everyone else has made their plans without me because people forget to ask because I don’t have time to put into making the relationships a priority week-to-week. This isn’t anyone’s fault. It just happens.

So here are some ideas I’ve come up with on how to make holidays a celebration, even if they really end up looking a whole lot like a normal day.

  1. Special Food. I love to eat. I love to eat seasonally. There’s always something I can cook or prepare (or grab from a restaurant) that will help us experience the season at its best. Watermelon in summer. Apples in fall. Coffee in winter. Asparagus in spring. Plan a special holiday menu that feels special, even if you’re eating it at home at 5:30 pm so your toddler can get to bed on time.
  2. Special Movie. We may be the only ones who do this, but Jason and I categorize movies by season. In summer we watch 500 Days of Summer and Elizabethtown, in fall we watch Amazing Grace, in winter we turn on a Bourne movie and you get the idea. We also always watch certain movies at Christmas (White Christmas, Desk Set, and It’s a Wonderful Life) and on November 5th we try to fit in time to watch V for Vendetta.
  3. Special Music. Turning on tunes that fit your mood, or maybe change your mood to something more celebratory, can turn a ho-hum evening into something fun. It could be Jazz, Top 40, Broadway, Country. Something that fits.
  4. Special Time Alone. I think on the spectrum of toddler TV watching, I’m on the conservative side of moderate. Nathan watches Curious George almost every day, but only for little bits and he doesn’t really know about other options. But the occasional extra TV viewing that allows me to have some refreshing time alone will not hurt him. That way, even if I’m solo-parenting on a day when most people are celebrating a holiday, I can get a “mini-holiday” on pinterest or in a book or in the shower.

Cheers to celebrations!