SensationALL top tips for Christmas

For most people Christmas is an exciting time but it usually means a change in routine which, for families with multiple support needs (MSN) can be upsetting and disruptive. Not to mention all the additional sensory experiences such as Christmas lights, music and scents which can be overwhelming.

To help our MSN families, the SensationALL team have shared some top tips to make Christmas a fun experience for everyone:

  • CALENDAR – mark off days with no school or other meaningful words or symbols. Highlight Christmas day and first day back to school.
  • Use a SCHEDULE or checklist to indicate what activities will be completed during the day. Use visuals/symbols to suit individual communication.
  • Plan activities for ENERGY BURNING such as a trip to the park on the swings, inclusive sessions at trampoline park or soft play. Or play indoor games such as hide and seek or a treasure hunt.
  • Build in BREAK TIMES to help with relaxation as well, have a quiet space away from the overwhelming aspects of Christmas. This could be a space with no music and low lighting such as a tent or den in quiet space in the house. Or use relaxation music and calming scents like lavender. You could also use deep pressure such as massage or heavy blankets as a calming strategy.
  • Have your OWN VERSION OF CHRISTMAS – do whatever works best for you, don’t feel you have to conform to tradition or what everyone else is doing! If your child doesn’t want too many presents keep them for the days following Christmas or if they don’t want presents wrapped maybe just use a gift bag. Have what you want for dinner or what you know your person with MSN will eat. Try having a taster of the Christmas meal on small plates to try to reduce stress over different/new foods and textures.
  • Take CALMING RESOURCES such as noise cancelling headphones with or without music or distraction aids such as fidget spinners or bubbles. You may have to allow for a reduced level of tolerance of new, challenging or sensory demanding situations. Some of strategies from our Chill-oot! and Girl’s Groups are perfect e.g. glitter sensory bottles are a fantastic coping tool to support emotional regulation. To make these simply add glue and glitter with warm water to a clear plastic bottle; watch as the glitter slowly swirls with the water. Other great ideas for easy to make coping strategies can be found on Pinterest.
  • SENSORY STORIES – A Christmas themed social story can help to explain the festive season – you can even write your own personalised story, check out this useful guide.

We also can’t forget that this time of year can be equally challenging for siblings as they may have to modify their own excitement or even make sacrifices to suit their siblings with MSN. However, there are simple things you can do to make sure they don’t miss out on the festive feeling; watch a Christmas movie together, do some Christmas baking, have a Christmas shopping trip – most importantly plan some 1-to-1 time for them with a parent. A present or specially created message from their sibling might be appreciated too.

Here are some useful visuals which can be used in the techniques above, as well as December and January calendar sheets for printing to stick the symbols on.

We hope you all have a relaxed, magical time this Christmas!

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SensationALL christmas present ideas

At this time of year, the SensationALL team are often asked for suggestions for Christmas presents or sticking filler ideas for multi support needs children. Our experienced team of Occupational Therapists and Support Workers often spend time researching products, toys and objects to not only use during our groups or at events, but also for training workshops! We have used some of these ideas to put together a starter-for-10 Christmas present list:

Special Needs Toys Website –  this is a great website with sensory specific sections for toys and equipment. From tactile to proprioceptive, this website covers all basis’ for sensory specific presents for unique individuals.

Sequin Snap Bracelet – these reversible sequin snap bracelets are good sensory fidgets that are wearable – our service users in the SensationALL holiday groups and Chill OOT especially loved using these. There are lots of other reversable sequin products such as cushions, pencil cases, backpacks etc that would also make for a great Christmas gift.

Infinity Loop – this is a stainless steel springy slinky for your arm. Our SensationALL service users have loved using these in our Inclusive Social Group and our sensory sessions. A simple but highly enjoyable interactive toy that provides endless fun.

Marks and Spencers Kids Easy Dressing Range – we love the special range of clothes M&S have created which are adapted for children who need extra help. With clothing options for anyone with feeding tubes or if they simply need clothes that are easy to put on and gentle for sensitive skin. The Easy Dressing range aims to help make dressing easier, quicker, more comfortable – and more fun!

Sensory Body Sock – body socks are a great resource to try out for individuals with multiple support needs. The resistant walls of the body sock provide a tactile means of self-referencing that improves body awareness and assists in developing spatial awareness through balance and resistance. At SensationALL we have used body socks in several of our social and emotional regulation groups and lots of the kids love them!

Our last Christmas gift idea is of course, the SensationALL gift card! Available to buy directly from SensationALL by emailing or you can buy one from the Old Schoolhouse when you are at one of our groups or events. Each gift card costs £30 and provides 6 hour long sessions at any of our groups! A great gift to access SensationALL’s exciting range of services. #SensationALL

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Christmas With Multiple Support Needs: 10 Top Tips For Avoiding Stress This Festive Season



1. Keep routines going to avoid the hype of the “countdown” to Christmas

Whilst some may cope with the “countdown to Christmas”, knowing your child, you may find it easier to play this down if it is likely to increase their stress. Either way, it is very hard to ignore these days when it is on TV, in the shops and in schools, so try to keep as many of their routines going as possible over this period.

2. Plan for when things get too much

Plan for your child’s potential behaviour triggers, consider what can be avoided or reduced to a minimum, and think about where they can go or what they can do if things get too much. It can be a very overstimulating day, with lots of ‘new things’ to deal with, so plan some quiet, low-stimulus times throughout the day.

3. Set aside time for them to do what THEY enjoy

Our version of enjoyment might be quite different from our child’s, so try to factor in times where they can engage in their own interests.

4. Allow them to sit back and watch

Your child may be happier watching the larger family group activities from a periphery, such as having their Christmas dinner on a small table nearby, if they struggle with too many people in close proximity.

5. Help family members choose suitable presents

Help family members choose suitable presents that match your child’s interests or developmental stage. Also, let them know you may not open them all on Christmas day, as this may be overwhelming.

Some useful ideas for sensory items may be found on Special Needs Toys. For wheelchair users, try Have Wheelchair Will Travel‘s Christmas gift ideas, and for children with multiple and complex needs there are some excellent sensory stories created by Scope storybooks for special needs children. There are also some fun and educational apps for phones and tablets.

If family members are struggling to think of ideas, you could always suggest an afternoon or evening of babysitting, to allow you time to go for a meal, cinema, spa or similar treat.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Better to have a happy relaxed family day than worry about having everything perfect. The people that love and care about you will understand what is important!

7. Accept offers of help and make life easier for yourself

Take advantage of any shortcuts or offers of help with catering, shopping online or looking after children on the day. Remember, if your child only eats certain foods then this is not the day to try to change his/her diet, so have on offer what they will eat.

8. Look after yourselves!

Take some time to recharge your batteries and to relax! Check out some mindfulness and relaxation techniques or go for a walk, as physical exercise is excellent at de-stressing. Treat yourself to some time out!

9. Prepare a visual timetable or short Social Story

Prepare a visual timetable for the day or the holiday if this will help your child know the plans for each day and thereby reduce their anxiety or stress. Making a short Social Story about Christmas can also help them learn and understand what will be happening and can suggest some coping strategies for the potential ‘trigger points’. Here are some great resources from The Success Box.

10. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Don’t set your expectations too high and put pressure on yourself to do too much over the holiday period. Have fun and enjoy yourself, as it is the simple things in life that are most important.

Merry Christmas from everyone at SensationALL!

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