by Terrie McKee from Homeschooling1Child

 

The holidays can be a stressful time for us all but can be debilitating for those with special needs. The sounds, lights, smells, and strange schedules can cause meltdowns, anxiety, and a whole host of behavioral issues. 

As a mom with four special needs children, ranging from autism to ADHD, dyslexia and diabetes, I fully understand the trials and tribulations of dodging holiday stressors. There are some things that parents of children with special needs  can do to minimize the stress for their kiddos (and themselves) that I’ve incorporated into my own family.

 

Keep the schedule

It seems like every weekend in December is booked solid with  special holiday activities. You want your child to participate or even just enjoy the festivities but getting off schedule makes for anything but merry-making. Keeping the normal, daily schedule intact helps your child anticipate what’s next. You can insert the holidays into homeschooling while keeping the schedule by having holiday-themed spelling words or worksheets, related crafts, and holiday music. Writing social stories about upcoming festive activities can help the child anticipate what will happen and even get excited about it. In addition, writing out a daily schedule for each child with any holiday events or activities will help give them a heads-up and a semblance of control. 

 

Dietary needs

The holidays can be full of dietary landmines, particularly for those with food allergies, sensitivities, or chronic health issues such as diabetes. When visiting extended family or friends for get-togethers, remind them about your child’s dietary needs or bring along food you know is safe for them to eat. Many families enjoy baking during this time of year, and it’s a great homeschooling activity to boot. Just make sure all  ingredients can safely be consumed by all. It’s important to make family traditions in spite of and because of special needs–just incorporate the special needs into it. If you have a family member who just cannot eat things like sugar cookies, you can make ornaments using salt dough, using cookie cutters to cut them out and paint to decorate them. You get the same effect but without the food landmine. 

 

Sensory Overload

When my oldest, who has autism, was a little boy, going to the mall and sitting on Santa’s lap was asking for trouble. Not only did he not know this person, but Santa would inevitably pat him on his back and snuggle him—all things that were a definite spectrum no-no. After receiving the diagnosis of autism and researching all the things about it, the Santa-triggered meltdowns made a lot more sense, and we no longer pushed the issue. Some things aren’t worth experiencing, especially if they create anxiety for years to come . With all the sights and sounds come a lot of triggers: blinking Christmas lights, loud holiday music stuck on repeat in shops, other children’s screaming meltdowns in stores—it all added up to be torture for my son. Noise-canceling headphones, minimizing the times we’d take him in stores, and avoiding the triggers all made for much better experiences for all. 

 

It’s hard on parents when special needs kids are in the mix with the holidays: you want your child to experience the magic, wonder, and fellowship of holiday gatherings, but the reality becomes too much. Creating your own traditions around your child’s specific needs means all can enjoy the time together and minimize the stress that can come with the holidays

 

Terrie McKee blogs at Homeschooling1Child.com. Married with four children, three of whom are adults and on their own, she homeschools her youngest, who has dyslexia, ADHD, and chronic migraines.  You can follow her on Facebook at @Homeschooling1Child.

 

 

 

 


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The SPED Homeschool Team

Christmas can be stressful on our kids and our families. But it is important to find the right traditions and the right rhythm to the holiday season, especially this year. Our SPED Homeschool team shares their traditions that have worked – and some that have not worked – in their families.

 

It’s Okay to Mix Things Up

I LOVE Christmas! I’m all about family traditions and creating expectations through the holiday, but we have had to be flexible. Because of my son’s autism, there were years in which we could not listen to any Christmas music. Other years, we listened to the same five songs over and over again. There were a few years with no Christmas lights. And many years in which extended family was baffled at why we had to leave the chaos of a massive gathering early. Still, we were able to create yearly traditions around the picky eating and sensory overload. One tradition, from when I was a child, was picking out a toy shaped ornament that described that year. My son loves this tradition. Our tree is covered in odd-shaped ornaments that give our family great memories whenever we put the tree up. Another tradition is an online advent calendar from Jacquie Lawson we buy every year. We love the videos, games, and trivia each day. A new tradition is matching pajamas in our stockings that we open on Christmas eve and wear all day on Christmas. We don’t do massive gatherings anymore, just us, so we take as long or as short a time to open presents as necessary and eat a unique Christmas dinner that fits us. We have done different things each year to remember Christ, but the one thing my son has continued to love is having a nativity that he can touch, study, and play with. Every year we try new things. Some succeed and some are a disaster, but what we keep, we look forward to every year afterward.

-Lara Lee

 

Gathering ‘Round the Table

For our family, Christmas has always centered around eating. Not overeating, but special meals with extended conversations where we take time out of our busy schedule to eat together and share stories while enjoying each other’s company.  

In the past, I have shared some of these beloved recipes on our website, including my grandmother’s  raw cranberry relish, my kid’s favorite  triple chocolate biscotti, and my favorite, sugar plums.

This year has taken a new twist though, as I am on a very restricted diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April. So, while I am cooking some favorites for my family that I can’t eat, I am also making new dishes that may one day be added to our “favorites” while updating older recipes so they fit into my new diet. 

Thankfully Christmas has not lost its meaning nor has the primary purpose of our meals just because I have had to make some diet changes. This season is still about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our mealtimes will continue to be cherished gatherings around food with the family members we love and are blessed to have around our table this year.

 Peggy Ployhar  

 

Every year we try new things. Some succeed and some are a disaster, but what we keep, we look forward to every year afterward.

 

Christmas in 2020

Holidays are in our family are never the same. It depends on the year and who is in town. This year the holidays will be over Facetime or Zoom. Even though we will not be together, we still plan on making family important. We try to spend some time taking pictures, riding the Christmas train, baking cookies. My favorite thing to do is to load up the kids in the car and go look at Christmas lights. There are so many houses in our area that have their lights set to music. We decorated early this year because we all needed the lights. This year we will try to enjoy the family, the time, and the slow pace. 

– Dawn Spence

 

 

 


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Ingredients

  • 2 cups cranberries (wash in cold water)
  • 3-4 cups sliced apples (Granny Smith)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal (I use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup flour (I use almond flour)
  • 1/3 cup butter

Faith Berens – Gluten Free


CranApple Casserole Bake

Our family makes this recipe every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a traditional side dish, lovingly prepared and served each year at family gatherings when my Aunt Betty was alive. Aunt Betty had the gift of hospitality and she absolutely loved hosting for the holidays. Sadly, she passed away due to kidney cancer several years ago, but one way we help keep her traditions going is to make some of her favorite recipes.

 

Directions:

Sprinkle lemon juice over apples. Combine cranberries, apples, granulated sugar, and salt and place in a Pyrex baking dish 9×9 or 9×13.

In a separate bowl, make a crumble out of the brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, and butter and spoon on top of the apple mixture.

Bake for 1 hour

Image provided by: https://www.needpix.com/photo/945891/cake-streusel-cake-baked-cake-mould-bake-sugar-coffee-party-streusel-sweet-dish

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup corn flakes

 Jace Clark – Sweet Potato Skeptic


Sweet Potato Casserole

This is a traditional recipe that I received from a lady at church. I have been making it for over 20 years and it’s always a popular request. I didn’t even like sweet potato casserole until I found this one!


Directions:

  1. Mix together the sweet potatoes, eggs, regular sugar, nutmeg, milk, and cinnamon.
  2. Place in 9×9 buttered dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  4. Mix topping (butter, brown sugar, pecans, and corn flakes) in a separate bowl.
  5. Spread topping over  potato mixtre and bake an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees

 

 

Ingredients

  • 4 apples
  • 4 oranges (seedless)
  • 2 bags of cranberries
  • 2 cups raw honey

 Peggy Ployhar– In-the-Raw


Raw Cranberry Relish

This cranberry relish recipe is one my grandmother and mother made every holiday season and one I have incorporated into my own family holiday cooking schedule. Not convinced yet? My husband used to hate cranberry relish, now he looks forward to it every holiday season.

 

Directions:

  1. Wash, seed and cut the apples into wedges (leaving on the skins)
  2. Wash the oranges and cut into wedges (leaving the rinds on – trust me)
  3. Wash cranberries
  4. Using a food grinder, grind all the fruit together
  5. Mix the honey into the ground fruit
  6. Let sit at least 8 hours before serving

Hint: This recipe freezes very, so I make a double batch before Thanksgiving and then freeze the other half for Christmas.

Image provided by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbrons/5216172956

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb diced smoked sausage
  • I can corn or other veggies
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives
  • I can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 4 cups of rice
  • 4 1/2 water

Cammie Arn – Instant Pot Meal


Sausage Rice Casserole

Makes for a great meal when you are tired of Turkey.


Directions

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and place in a large rice cooker or Instant Pot. 
  2. Use the white rice setting on my rice cooker or the rice setting on my Instant Pot.

 

Ingredients

  • Chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Dawn Spence – Sweet Finish


Toffee Fudge

This is what we had when we got together for Christmas Eve. My mom always made finger foods and this wonderful toffee. It reminds me of my grandmother who was an avid cookie and candy maker. But, now that I eat low-carb and sugar-free I have added some substitutions as well below.

 

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle the bottom of a 9″ square pan with chopped pecans, walnuts or cashews.
  2. In a saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter.
  3. Bring to boil.
  4. Stir constantly for 7 minutes exactly.
  5. Remove from heat and spread over nuts.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes.
  7. When chocolate is melted spread evenly and cut into squares.
  8. Refrigerate until cool and set.
  9. Remove and break into squares.
  10. Keep in an airtight container.
    Omit nuts if desired.
    Omit chocolate for tender nut brittle.

Low-Carb Option: Substitute 3/4 cup brown Swerve for the brown sugar, change the butter to Earth Balance and use Lily’s dark chocolate chips or Enjoy dairy-free chocolate chips.

 

 


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Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 4 oz. coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup carrot, cooked and mashed
  • ¾ cup plum, peeled and processed in a blender
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

sweet potato pie

Dr. Jan Bedell – Low-Carb Alternative


No-Crust Sweet Potato Pie

My support person, Michelle, created a cookbook for her son when he was on the Spectrum Balance Protocol diet. This came from that book.

  • This recipe is for children and adults who have multiple food sensitivities.
  • This recipe is gluten-free, corn-free and processed sugar-free.
    If you are also dairy-free, leave out the cream cheese.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients with a hand mixer and mix well. Pour into pie pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until firm. Serves 6. (Recipe submitted by Michelle Thompson, author of Dinner for David.)

 

gingerbread men with tea

Ingredients

  • ½ cup margarine
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ½ cups flour (or 1 ½ cups flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Kathy Kuhl – Traditional Holiday Favorite


Gingerbread Men 

This is our favorite for Christmas. I have a reindeer cookie cutter and add a red hot to create Rudolphs.


  1. Cream (or partially melt) margarine, sugar, and molasses. If melted, let the mixture cool.
  2. Add egg.
  3. Sift in remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir.
  5. Chill.
  6. Roll out ¼ inch thick and cut.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
  8. Cool on cooling racks.

Yield 2 trays.

Tip: roll all the dough to the same thickness, or thinner cookies will be overcooked before others are done.

 

Ingredients

  • Gluten-free pretzels
  • White almond bark
  • Yellow M&M’s

Cammie Arn – Gluten-Free Fun Treat


“Eggs & Bacon”

We are a little non-traditional at our house!

  1. Place 2 pretzel sticks next to one another on a piece of waxed paper or baking mat
  2. Top with melted almond bark
  3. Place 1 yellow M&M on top
  4. let it set up

Enjoy!

 

apples image

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies
  • Apples
  • 1/2 cup butter

Hint: Use a cooking apple that will not turn mushy when cooked, such as Macintosh, Granny Smith, Jonathon, etc.

 

Dawn Spence – Gluten-Free Fruit Treat


Baked Cinnamon Apples

One smell of this apple dessert and I knew that the holidays had arrived. I miss my grandmother but this recipe helps me remember fond memories.


In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cornstarch, and red hots to a boil.

Fill a 3-quart baking dish with sliced apples

Pour the hot liquid over the apples

Dot the top of the apples with 1/2 cup butter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, let cool 15 minutes.

chocolate biscotti

 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup lentil flour (green, red or brown – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
  • 6 large eggs 
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (divided)
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil

Peggy Ployhar – Hidden Healthy


Triple Chocolate Biscotti

Before our family even started down the road to healthy eating, this recipe was one of my children’s favorites – actually not this exact recipe as I have modified it over the years to make a more healthy version. I have really been surprised that no one has even noticed the changes, but then again with this much cocoa powder in a recipe, you can mask a lot of ingredients.

I make this recipe at least three times every holiday season plus multiple times throughout the rest of the year.

 

Instructions:

  • In one bowl mix all the dry ingredients – flours and powders.
  • In another bowl cream together the butter and Sucanat.
  • Next, add in the eggs and the vanilla to the butter mixture.
  • Now slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, add in the dry ingredients. First off by adding in 1 cup of chocolate chips. (You will need a really heavy-duty mixer to handle this dough.)
  • Now dump out the dough and finish off the mixing by kneading the dough with wetted hands until the dough gets glossy. (This is also a good upper body workout!)
  • Next, separate the dough into two pieces and then roll each piece out on parchment into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, 4 to 5 inches wide and as long as you need for length.

Then bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

When the 25 minutes are up, remove the cookies from the oven, cut them again, separate each slice and lay them on their sides on two baking sheets.

Then return the cookies to a 275 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour to dry.

 While the cookies are on their final bake, heat the remaining 1 cup of chocolate with the coconut oil in a double-boiler until melted

Once baking is done, spread the melted chocolate onto the tops of the cookies.

Let cool, then eat…if you can wait that long.

 

 


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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 Amy Vickrey, MSE

They say the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach, and I have found that saying to be true as well with the little men in my house. But since my boys not only have special needs but also special dietary restrictions, it is tricky to show them love by making foods that are not only safe for them to eat, but also enjoyable. They, like all other children, want something special to eat for holiday events.

 

My solution? Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies!

You would never image these healthy treats are hard to keep around, but that’s the truth in our house! Your family will love these Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Peanut-free delights!

Watch my boys and I make these delicious cookies on this video, and then use the recipe below to make your own.

 

Ingredients:
4 ½ c. Gluten-free flour (Or, 1:1 baking mix, such as Pillsbury. If using GF Bisquick, leave out baking powder)
½ c. Sugar
¼ c. Sunflower lecithin powder (I prefer NOW brand)
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

 

Mixing Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until all are evenly distributed.

Next, add in wet ingredients:
4 c. Almond milk (use coconut or soy milk to make completely nut free)
3 Tablespoons avocado oil (can substitute coconut, canola, or vegetable)
2 Tablespoons vanilla (Mexican vanilla is the best)
1-30oz or 2-15oz cans of pumpkin

Blend with a mixer until fully comes together, scraping down sides of bowl.

Finally, add in chocolate:

1 pound of chocolate chips (I like the mini chips best). Stir to incorporate chocolate chips.

Scoop dough into cookie form pan or waffle iron.


Baking Directions:

For Cookies:
Bake in 400 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.

For Waffles:
I also use this batter (with or without the chocolate chips) to make waffles.
Cook according to directions of your waffle iron. I use a smaller square iron and mine cook 5 minutes.

This recipe is a wonderful fill-in for breakfast or even afternoon snack to enjoy with milk or hot cocoa.

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team


As our kids are counting down the days to Christmas, we special needs homeschooling moms have our sights elsewhere. We’re not only looking forward to the end of the holiday season, and a return our family’s version of normal, but we’re also looking towards the goals we have for our kids.

With that in mind, the team members of SPED Homeschool have put together our own special needs homeschool mom Christmas wish list. This list is meant to be fun, but at the same time highlight the biggest goal we have for our children…godly character.

As you read through this list, and the accompanying character traits, we pray you are inspired this Christmas season to see beyond the educational goals you have for your children and also see their attitudes and actions moving them towards much more lofty goals.


 

12 Days of Christmas – Special Needs Homeschooling Mom Version


On the first day of Christmas, my child gave to me..a homemade angel on top our Christmas tree! (Creativity)

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2


On the second day of Christmas, my child gave to me..2 completed assignments. (Determination)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8


On the third day of Christmas, my child gave to me…3 chocolate candies. (Generosity)

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6


On the fourth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…4 “lost” items. (Truthfulness)

“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25


On the fifth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…5 sloppy kisses! (Love)

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3


On the sixth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…6 prayers for my patience. (Sensitivity)

“ Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15


On the seventh day of Christmas, my child gave to me…7 respectful responses. (Respectfulness)

“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:5


On the eighth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…8 sharpened pencils. (Resourcefulness)

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” Luke 16:10


On the ninth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…9 correctly answered questions. (Wisdom)

“The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15


On the tenth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…10 painted toes. (Caring)

“ For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:20-21


On the eleventh day of Christmas, my child gave to me…11 minutes of silence. (Self-Control)

“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25


On the twelfth day of Christmas, my child gave to me…12 hours without complaining! (Contentment)

“And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:8


 

May your Christmas season be fruitful and filled with the joy of seeing your children learning and growing in their ability to walk in God’s truth and His light. – SPED Homeschool Team

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 1:4

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Although sugar plums are mentioned in “The Night Before Christmas,” and there is a Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker Ballet, not many people are familiar with what a sugar plum really is.

Years ago, when our family did a Christmas unit study, we discovered this versatile Christmas treat.  Since then, it has been my go-to recipe for holiday gatherings and a personal healthy indulgence during the holiday season.

Here is a video my daughter Maggie and I made to take you step-by-step through the recipe.  In the video, we not only show you how simple this recipe is to make, but also how you can easily change the ingredients to work around any of your family member’s food allergies.

 

 

 

 

Allergy Friendly Sugar Plum Recipe

 

Equipment, Ingredients and Instructions

 

Equipment:
Food processor
2 plates

 

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups base ingredient:  any variety of nut, oatmeal (gluten-free if needed), or coconut
  • 2 cups dried fruit: raisins, dates, cranberries, figs, apricots, or prunes
  • 2 teaspoons spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, ground anise, etc.
  • Approximately ¼ cup of a wet ingredient: honey, maple syrup, maple cream, nut butter, molasses, brown rice syrup, etc.
  • Extra chopped base ingredient, or cocoa/peanut butter powder, for coating

Directions:

  • Measure 2 cups of your base ingredient (or mix of base ingredients) into the food processor and chop to a fine meal.
  • Measure 2 cups of your dried fruit choice (or mix of dried fruit choices) into the food processor, with the base, and chop again until the fruit is minced.
  • Measure in 2 teaspoons of spices into the mixture in the food processor, and chop to distribute.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredient into the mixture in the food processor until it forms a ball.
  • Dump the mixture out on one plate and place your desired coating on another plate
  • Roll the mixture into gumball-sized balls
  • Finish by rolling the ball in the coating

 

Extra Recipe Tips

  • Keep a wet towel nearby to clean off sticky hands
  • Store finished sugar plums in the refrigerator

 

 

 


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Dyana Robbins

 

The holiday season offers many wonderful things to us: time away from work, more time with friends and family, traditions, and expressions of love. For many, this truly remains the happiest and most-anticipated time of the year. However, there are years when the holidays seem much less joyous. Deaths, losses, difficult circumstances, broken relationships and other factors can threaten the joy we want to experience.

 

Here are some thoughts that I hope will encourage you if you find yourself facing a difficult holiday season.  Some of them are humorous, others more serious, but all have helped our family celebrate the holidays in difficult years.

 

1.  Treat Hallmark movies and Christmas sentimentalism like a plague
Please don’t call me Scrooge; I know how committed people are to their Hallmark Christmas movies.  I have even liked a couple of them myself. However, when we are battling discouragement or even despair, the idealized versions of Christmas, love, and family that are peddled to us can intensify our pain.
Movies and many Christmas songs’ sentimental version of life can highlight places in our lives that don’t reflect the same perfection.  Instead of providing help, they actually create larger wounds.  If you must indulge in these entertainments,  make sure you balance them with movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.”  They have some good old adversity and life lessons that balance out the schmaltz.  And for music, immerse yourself in songs that offers real joy and hope.  My favorite is “O Holy Night.”

 

2.  Simplify
We hear this advice everywhere, but what does it actually look like to practice simplicity?  It differs in families, but simplicity rests on the following principles:  contentment, pruning of useless or harmful things, and a grateful perspective.
Even in the most difficult times, we can practice simplicity.  As we rid ourselves of fruitless thoughts, useless energy expenditures, taxing social engagements, and burdensome traditions or expectations, joy can fill the space they vacate.  We can appreciate the beauty of what remains, the graces of each day, and enjoy rest.

 

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ― Henry David Thoreau

 

3.  Do something new
One of life’s greatest joys, is to experience or learn new things.  Whether you create new traditions, learn a new game, skill, or song, take a different route for Christmas light viewing, or bake something different, your venture into the unknown affirms life and fresh beginnings.  The scope and cost of these changes need not be great; just doing them brings happy feelings and memories.

 

4.  Avoid or limit negative influences
This may be the most difficult of my recommendations. Often, negative influences come from our closest  family members, or others we’re pressured to spend time with over the holidays.  If you feel guilty avoiding them entirely,  do all you can to limit your exposure to them.  
You can do a shorter visit, make sure others will be around to dilute their impact, gather in a place you feel most comfortable, or have the nearest exit mapped out for an emergency evacuation.  We need to show love to difficult people, but during dark seasons in our own lives, we might need a break or limited engagement to care for ourselves.
Likewise, give yourself permission to rest from considering or deciding about stressful or negative things.  Even a short break from decision-making can help you recharge and focus on the joy of the season.  Truly, our problems can almost always be put on temporary hold, instead of demanding all of our time and attention.

 

5.  Celebrate Christ
If you find yourself in the darkest of times, my other recommendations will ring with inadequacy. There are some problems we cannot change, fix or remove; they simply must be borne. Even bearing those burdens, hope shines and lights a path for joy.
Isaiah 9, in the Bible, talks of Christ the Savior.  Consider this beautiful passage with me:

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

One dark day, the God of Heaven sent his son to us.  His arrival fulfilled many prophecies, God’s promises to man, to provide a Savior from ourselves, our condition, and this broken world.  He walked our paths, suffered our griefs, experienced our fragile joys, and purchased for us a joy that can never die.
Because of this gift, every trial, grief, injustice, betrayal, loss and inadequacy will one day be completely overwhelmed and overcome.  No matter what we face, even the most horrible and trying things, they only have temporary power and effect.  As we wait for that day, we enjoy Christ’s presence and help.  He is all to us that the verses above promise: our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Every lesser joy can be extinguished. Life’s burdens can smother them all.  But, the joy of Christ, God’s guarantee to man, has never failed me or anyone who has trusted in Him.
Whatever your circumstances this year, I pray you will find and know joy.  If this season is painful for you, know that you are not alone in your struggle or in waiting for better days.  May the joy of this season overwhelm your struggles and bring you hope.  

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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

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This article

was reprinted with permission from Dyana Robbin’s personal blog,

Ambling Grace.