Christmas is a “wonderful time of year,” lots of hustle and bustle, family days out, meeting up with friends, more food & drink. Buying presents and thinking we will never have it all done and sometimes we let pressures take over and put excess strain on ourselves when we should spend the time enjoying the festivities.

Christmas memories are made and with a child with additional needs two “things” are a must especially at this time of year. TIME & PATIENCE (if only we could buy them). If we had this in mind before we attend a Christmas event everything would run smoother.

The first experience has to be putting up the Christmas tree, does it matter if the decorations are in the wrong place? No. You can always change them later, what does matter is every time the child will see the tree they will remember the fun night they had when it was put up.

Then we have the Christmas concert. Take it from me, after years of experience whatever happens on the night doesn’t matter, what does matter is that your child enjoys the experience. That they had fun. I always left chocolate Christmas Santa’s in the car for David after the concert and told him that “Santa or the Elves” must have seen him on stage and left this little gift for them.

Next on the list is a visit to Santa. The best suggestion and one that has worked for me is this. Phone up the place you wish to visit Santa, explain that you have a special needs child that may be a little confused with the experience and that you would appreciate a little assistance. Most people will organise that your child skips the queue or is taken around the grotto by a special Elf. Try and go to a place where there is a lot of room and ask is it wheelchair assessable beforehand if needed. Otherwise, you could end up confused and disappointed. Plan this well.

David loves going shopping for cards and presents for people however I try and go well before Christmas with him when the shops are a little quite. Mahon point shopping centre in Cork is great for this as there is plenty of shops under one roof (no rain!) and lots of restaurants and bathrooms!! Make sure to allow lots of time for this. David insists on going for tea and mince pies after this. Again if you think this will take an hour allocate at least two.

Plan your outing over Christmas when you are visiting friends, calling to relations, Christmas panto, etc. Explain everything in advance to your child. Make a special Christmas calendar of all the things you are planning to do and this will make it more exciting for your child. If you are going to the Christmas Panto try and book a seat in the first few rows in the balcony as your child is a good bit away from the stage but can see everything, in case they are frightened by loud noises, etc.

Remember if things don’t go as you have planned, just stop, take a deep breath and imagine Christmas through your child’s eyes. Whatever you do this Christmas make sure it is fun and that you thoroughly enjoy Christmas 2017.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful, fun-filled Christmas.