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SPED Homeschool Team

 

The special demands that naturally occur during this time of year can make celebrating the holidays with special needs children difficult. From food to family, each event can be a minefield of potential reactions, meltdowns, and misadventures. Or, with the right perspective and a few adjustments, the holidays can be as meaningful as they are meant to be. Hear from our SPED Homeschool Team Members as they share their tips for celebrating the holidays with their special needs children.

 

 

Dawn Spence

Family and holidays can be a complicated adventure. From medical needs and allergy needs, I used to find myself apologizing for needing things a certain way. Fast forward 8 years and I realized that no apologies are needed, and I meet our family’s needs without skipping a beat. I had to allow myself to be okay with the way things were before I could expect anyone else too. I know when my daughter has had too much, and we leave guilt-free. We bring foods that meet our allergy needs and even make extra for everyone else to enjoy. Being with family can be stressful, but at the same time, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the life you have been given.

 

Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.”

 

 

Cammie Arn

The holidays in our home aren’t typical. We don’t have large extended families to travel to or to visit due to either distance or death. Instead, we have created new family traditions such as making a birthday cake (both regular and gluten-free) for Jesus at Christmas or homemade Belgian waffles with homemade fruit syrup.

 

We participate in a “feast of nations” at church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Some dress in modern-day clothing representing their home country and bring a dish to share. Having an international church does help with this for sure. There have been times when this was thanksgiving for us.

 

One really neat idea is to do Christmas around the world in December. You can learn about a different country every day, study how they celebrate Christmas, and possibly try a special Christmas treat from that country. End your study by praying for that country.

 

How do we handle the food for all this fun? We find out what food is being served and modify from there. At potlucks, I always bring food tailored to our family’s needs to eliminate reactions. So far so good.

 

Holiday chaos? Not us. Although we are very busy this time of year with all the parties and so forth, we handle it by guarding Friday night as “Family Night.” We watch a movie at home and have pizza. Pretty much no exception. We also have a “no work” rule on Sunday that helps our family decompress and prep for the next week.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

Our family dynamics are a bit different than most, and because I am the oldest of 14 with 10 adopted siblings, we don’t often have to explain anything to our family about how to deal with atypical behaviors of our children. Recently, we spent a few days with extended family at an indoor waterpark resort in the Wisconsin Dells and at one point my youngest sister went missing. Immediately our family flew into action with various members each immediately stepping in to stake out the campus, contact security, and canvas the facility. It didn’t seem out of place at all to switch from “vacation mode” to “search and rescue” mode, and once the call came in that my sister had been found and was being returned to her room by a helpful Good Samaritan, my husband stated nonchalantly to me, “Just another vacation with the Prenosil family.”

 

I don’t share this story to make it seem like this episode wasn’t a critical undertaking for everyone involved, but over the past 30 years, our family has developed a culture of caring for one another where no one asks why we just respond in love and concern. We are all in this together, whether it is caring for our adopted siblings or for each other’s children who also struggle with extreme food allergies and difficult to handle diagnoses. If you are just getting started on this special needs journey I want to encourage you that over time you can develop the support team you need just like our family has, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Little by little your immediate and extended family will learn the most by following your lead, so gently show them the way. Pray for their hearts to be softened towards the circumstances that surround the needs of your child and what you feel convicted to do as their parent and teacher for the best possible outcomes for their future. In turn, they will follow, but do understand it may take many years for them to come around and be the supportive family you desire for them to be for you right now.

 

 

Celebrating the holidays with your special needs children does not have to take the magic out of the season. Careful planning, simple celebrations, and supportive family can make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Holidays are tricky for families dealing with atypical situations, but that doesn’t mean holidays need to magnify these areas of your family life. Follow these DIFFERENT steps to ensure you won’t miss out on a joyful holiday season with your family.

 

D – Develop a plan

No matter how many activities your family would like to do over the holiday season, take a critical look at your schedule, at what is essential and what isn’t. Purposefully blocking in margin around these essentials reduces stress and the pull towards over-booking holiday activities. Then, discuss as a family what traditions or activities matter most to each of you. Finally, match open dates and times in your calendar with these top traditions/activities.

 

Also realize every year will be different and just because you may only be able to schedule in three or four activities this year, this doesn’t mean next year you will have to do the same.

 

I – Individualize acceptance

Holiday activities are often accompanied by vivid memories and biases on how they should be done or enjoyed. But, when you have a family member who has a disability, sickness, or other struggles that require a holiday tradition to be modified it can be difficult to make the necessary adjustments if you can’t be flexible. Yes, your family tradition may take on a new flavor, but that doesn’t mean the new flavor is worse than the original. It is just different.

 

Over time your family member may be able to adjust to the original way you remember enjoying this holiday activity, or over time the modified activity may become more favored by you and your family than the original.

 

F – Focus on strengths

Holiday celebrations and traditions often stretch relationships, sensory thresholds, and much more. Unfortunately, this stretching can cause contention between family members who only see the weakness others possess in comparison to their strengths. On the other hand, these differences in strengths can be beneficial, gifts that complement other family members in need.

 

Especially during this season of giving, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss individual strengths and weaknesses of each family member, create awareness, and purposefully work towards strengthening each other by better supporting one another.

 

F – Frame togetherness

Just because your family may want to spend more time together creating memories and doing your favorite holiday activities, it may not be realistic to expect everyone to spend all their spare time together doing these activities, especially when considering the needs of the more introverted and medically fragile members of your family.

 

Framing holiday time together with family members who must build rest into their daily schedules should be prioritized by setting aside not only specific days of the week but also the specific times of day for that rest. For instance, if the morning is the best time of day for your child, then booking a matinee for your family to attend the Nutcracker would be better than holding out for an evening performance like you remember enjoying from your childhood.

 

E – Embrace forgiveness

No one is perfect, and yet we often fantasize about having perfect holiday experiences with our imperfect family and less than perfect self. Realistically it is better to aim for ideal and build a larger buffer of forgiveness and understanding into our holiday planning.

 

Sicknesses, miscommunications, forgetfulness, and the general confusion and chaos which happens during the holiday season typically remind us we need to be okay with allowing wiggle room into our “perfect” holiday plans. This way, we don’t ruin our entire experience because we struggle to see beyond the imperfections and to simply enjoy the experiences we have been given to share with our family.

 

“If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities”

 

R – Remember to love

The greatest gift we can give any time of the year is to love others the way we would like to be loved ourselves. It’s not about the gifts we work so hard to hunt down and buy. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect gift ends up sidetracking us from being anything but loving.

 

If we desire to make our holiday season the most joyful season of the year, it is imperative to determine how to love others above traditions, events, or seasonal activities. Many times, this means we have to sacrifice our wants to love, but this is the exact love that Christmas is all about.

 

E – Enjoy the journey

Joy is essentially the bi-product of where we determine our enjoyment or fulfillment will draw from. If our joy rests solely on the product of our day, or even the season, we do not find fulfillment because life’s twists and turns can keep us from reaching these goals on time or how we had imagined them to turn out. But, if we instead seek to rest our joy on the journey towards reaching our goals, we can more readily find joy in our progress as well as in our relationships we might have otherwise overlooked.

 

During the holiday season, focusing on the joy of the journey can require even more intentional concentration as our days, weeks, and even months have checklists for things we don’t normally prioritize in our lives. This is when getting done what the day allows without sacrificing the joyful journey alongside our family members needs to become an even more intentional practice as well as something we intentionally celebrate throughout the season.

 

N – Non-negotiable relationships

Loving others is difficult and the holiday season often brings our lives closer in proximity to relatives we don’t always associate with regularly. And, while it is important to set boundaries with others, proper boundaries always leave room for any relationship to continue to grow if these individuals make positive changes and establish more healthy habits and boundaries.

 

Everything we can do on our end to leave a relationship open, even if we have to mostly close out a family member because of their personal choices or extenuating circumstances, leaves room for that door to widen once again in the future. We can’t always take on the full weight of what another family member is going through or allow the harmful or unsafe choices immediate or extended family members have made into our homes, but we can show there is always room in our hearts to love beyond these extenuating circumstances.

 

T – Take action

 

Finally, it is important to remember to act and put these practices to work. A plan and good intentions will never lead you to where you want to go. Only by stepping out in faith to approach this holiday season differently and move beyond various obstacles that in the past may have held you or your family back from experiencing joy will the season be the most joyful one you could experience.

 

 

 

 


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By Peggy PloyharOriginally posted December 2017. Updated in 2019.

What an amazing 2 years we have had since the launch of SPED Homeschool in the summer of 2017!

Sharing Hope As God Leads
All our success would not have been possible without the help of so many wonderful people who believed in our vision for a national special education homeschooling organization. So, thank you for being a part of this movement to grow a national support network for families who are working to help their children achieve educational success against so many odds.


We’re excited for 2020, with plans to continue expanding our outreach while developing more ways to bridge the gaps families currently experience homeschooling children with special educational needs. We can’t do this alone. In addition to needing your prayers, and God’s constant guidance on how to to move forward, we also need financial support to continue our necessary outreach.


Sharing Hope is Practical

This time of year, many families determine how they might increase their 2019 tax-deductible year-end donations. If your family is prayerfully deciding how to promote God’s kingdom through charitable giving, we would ask you to consider donating to SPED Homeschool. Your support will help us continue to share our primary mission and minister to families in the same manner He has ministered individually to each of us and our children throughout our homeschooling journeys.

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4


We truly understand the difficult daily realities special needs families face. Many who find us are lost, hurting, and on the defensive having been forced to live this way to protect their children and survive in hostile educational/medical/social environments. But, where there were walls, there are now doorways opening to reach these families. By coming alongside these hurting families, we can provide hope, show God’s love in practical and relevant ways, and truly demonstrate that faith in Jesus is the only pathway to peace amidst their circumstances.


 

Sharing Hope Together 
Together we can change the outlook for families with children who have special educational needs. And, together we can share God’s hope and point more children towards the future God created them for, by helping their families teach and train them in the way they should go.

 

SPED Homeschool is a 501.c.3 nonprofit. All charitable contributions are tax-deductible.

 

 


Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

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By Kimberly A Vogel

 

I opened the door and stepped into a winter wonderland. White, blue, and silver Christmas decorations adorned the house. After days of rushing around and overwhelming holiday stress, I finally felt like I could breathe. 

 

Something was comforting in the white. It brought a sense of calm and peace. The term white space repeated in my thoughts and synced to the white lights blinking.

 

I need white space in my life, especially around the holidays.

 

White space, a term writers use, refers to the white space on a page so the reader isn’t bombarded by words. I need a place where I’m not bombarded. I need extra room to move and breathe. Instead of cramming more activities into an already filled schedule, I should plan less and leave room for more spur of the moment activities.

 

My thoughts started to create priorities on how I just might be able incorporate white space into my life to lower my holiday stress. 

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love.

 

These were the reminders I needed to tell myself. 

 

Keep your calendar handy so you don’t overbook

Do you have a planner? Do you use your phone or paper? What you use isn’t important, using it is what’s important. Overbooking isn’t just having two activities at the same time, it’s having too many activities in a day or week.

 

Say yes sparingly

In Volunteering: Pray about every opportunity. Only commit to what you have time to do well. It’s better to focus on one or two opportunities, than saying yes to five things and only following through with a few.

With Activities: There’s an abundance of fun family events only available during the holidays and you should never feel obligated to go to them all. It seems like every group has a party this time of year. Make sure whatever you do commit to fits into your plan and isn’t too taxing. Also, consider your family’s special circumstances: If you have small kids, parties during nap time make the day difficult. If you have special needs kids, there are so many things to think through… sensory issues, behavior issues due to excess sugar, dietary restrictions, over-stimulation.

 

Don’t operate out of guilt, expectations, or ideals

Expectations run high during the holidays. As moms, we often set the pace for our family. As women, guilt plays a role into our decision making. I’ll never forget the year I ran myself ragged to make sure an event happened, all to find out I was the only one who wanted it. In this instance, the event’s importance had been heightened by a childhood memory, an ideal I eventually had to let go for the sake of my family’s sanity.

 

Back in the lovely decorated home, I walked into another room where a huge Fontini display decorated the corner. A village scene centered around the nativity. Then it hit me, THAT is the who of my white space. Jesus came to bring…peace, love and salvation. If He’s not at the center of my white space then I am just creating voids that attract fillers.

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love. White space is only beneficial if it is filled with Jesus because He perfectly fills the void. Jesus space, as the center of our white space, brings me back to what this holiday season is all about.

 

What can you do to create white space and Jesus space into your life?

 

 

 

 


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