The presents are wrapped and the cookies are made, but parents of children who have disabilities and complex conditions still have one more item on their holiday checklist. Before the big celebration, it’s important to communicate with friends and family members to educate them about your child’s health challenges.
Preparation is the key to keeping the holidays happy. It’s important to speak with your child about expectations and to give them strategies to respond to what might be challenging questions. Below, you’ll find some practical tips to help keep things merry.
Consider sending a letter to family and friends to tell them specifically what they might expect when interacting with your child. For example, if your child is unable to make eye contact or give hugs, your note could state that your child appreciates being loved but cannot tolerate certain physical contact. You can also provide suggestions for ways friends and family can interact with your child—quiet play, reading or singing.
Help relatives understand how your child is similar to other children, rather than focusing on differences. It’s also important to redirect pity. People might think they are being compassionate when they express sorrow for you and your child. Assure these relatives that acceptance and friendship is what is valued—not pity.
Plan to have a space for your child to unwind and decompress. It could be helpful for your child to know that it’s OK to take some private time if the holiday hubbub becomes too overwhelming.
Consider providing a list of specific and appropriate gifts your child would enjoy.
Be proactive if you’re traveling to someone else’s home to celebrate. It’s wise to tell your hosts about dietary needs, the medical equipment you may bring, and to ask for a quiet place for you and your child. You might also want to ask about parking plans and discuss your family’s specific needs.
Explain to your child that people may say insensitive comments, but that most often, these are not meant to be hurtful. Remember you don’t need to overshare and give too many details about your child’s condition. Talk about what feels comfortable. Your distant cousin does not need to hear private information about your family.
Finally, take care of yourself, relax, and enjoy the holiday season!
Erin Tentis-Berglund, PhD, LP, is a psychologist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
The Minnesota Microgrant Partnership launched this fall making grants up to $1000, in some cases more, to Minnesotans with disabilities. At this time those who receive home and community-based services or are transition-age youth who have an active Level 3 or 4 individual education plan are eligible to apply for a microgrant. Funds are available to help people achieve their person-centered goals around competitive, integrated employment; accessible, inclusive housing; and community integration. The most successful applications will show how a microgrant will help the recipient achieve their goals. They will also include a detailed budget with information on vendors or service providers and item numbers or store SKUs when possible.
Microgrant recipients have landed new jobs wearing appropriate interview clothing or started jobs with new work clothes or uniforms. A couple of people who received microgrants have launched or grown their own businesses. One man who uses a motorized wheelchair can get around his community better and help others with disabilities now that his custom wheelchair trailers have been repaired. A visually-impaired grant recipient will have more independence and community integration when his voice GPS arrives.
How could $500 help you get your dream job? Or help your living situation become more integrated? Could a microgrant expand your participation in your community?
The fastest way to apply for a microgrant is online. Go directly to bit.ly/Apply4MMGP.
You can also find a link to the application at www.arcmn.org. On the Microgrant Partnership page click Apply for a Microgrant which will take you to the application. Because the application process may take up to 45 days, grants are not intended to provide assistance in emergency or crisis situations.
We expect to fund nearly 350 grant recipients before December 31, 2018. Recipients may receive funds once per calendar year. The Minnesota Microgrant Partnership is administered by The Arc Minnesota and funded by Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Call Susan at 651-804-8056 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about this opportunity.
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Picture Caption: Rosemarie O. received a microgrant from the Minnesota Microgrant Parntership in October.