We have a Christmas List – Now…Writing a Letter to Santa

So, you have made a list of possible toys and things your child wants Santa to bring. It’s time to write that letter and mail it off! But, before you do that- does your child know who Santa is? Has school been talking about Santa? What about at home? If you haven’t been talking the big man up…it’s time to start now. Watch movies about Santa, play games on the computer, ipad, etc. that introduce Santa, sing songs about Santa, and anything else that helps your child begin to understand that Santa is the guy that brings presents on Christmas.

There are lots of different writing needs among children with disabilities and how you choose to write your letter should be decided before you start. Choose the letter writing technique that will make your child work a little, but not frustrate him/her. This should be a fun experience, without tears or meltdowns. You may choose to let the letter to Santa take a few days or maybe even a week. Some kids do not have a long attention span and it is almost torture to try and do everything in one day…so spread it out to meet the needs of your child.

Some of the different writing techniques you may choose include:

Having an adult write some of the parts and let the child “fill in” other parts with pictures or words (leave plenty of room)
Make a “rough draft” and then allow your child to write or type the letter by themselves.
Allow your child to cut/paste or write prepared sentences into the letter.
Allow your child to form their own letter after looking at sample letters.

If you are uncertain which approach to take, talk to your child’s teacher and/or therapists. See how he/she usually writes or types at school and whether they use all capital letters or a mix of capital and lowercase letters.

So what should go in the letter? I like to use the traditional sentences you would usually see in a letter to Santa, such as “I have been good/bad this year. I will leave cookies and milk for you.” along with important information such as name and age and what you want for Christmas. Here is a letter from a few years ago:

Letter to Santa

With this child, I used picture choices throughout the letter not only to allow choice, but to also ease the frustration of writing a letter. You can have sentences written on strips that the student could copy or you can also let your child/student sound out words. This is very specific to the needs of the child you are working with. As he wrote each sentence, he would choose the picture he wanted and glue it on. If he chose the wrong age, I would correct him and allow him to get the correct age. However, I allowed each child to select if they had been “good” or “bad.” Since being good or bad is more abstract, it is okay to let them choose whichever they like. Then, we talked about leaving milk and cookies out for Santa. Next, allow your child/student to choose the toys he/she wants for Christmas. Lastly, have him or her sign their name in whatever manner works. You may want to make a copy of the letter to keep before mailing it to the North Pole. Decorate your envelope and make a special trip to the post office to mail your letter to Santa.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the magic of writing a letter to Santa and understanding about Santa bringing presents is to make sure you talk to your child/student about it. Remind them that Santa brings gifts to good boys and girls. Reading books and watching movies about Santa may help too. Even on Christmas day, remind your child which gifts are from Santa. Each year, you will enjoy seeing your child’s understanding—and lists grow!

Five Ways to Prepare for the Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving generally revolves around food for neurotypical individuals. So what about kids with disabilities who may be picky eaters, be on special diets, or have trouble knowing when they are full? Thanksgiving can be a stressful day for parents of kids with disabilities when you add in all of these factors. How can you be better prepared? Here are 5 different ways to practice and prepare for Thanksgiving to make it a family-filled, fun day.

#5 Begin by visiting the library and reading about different types of fruits and vegetables. If you are not ready for a trip to the library with your child, try and go on your own and bring books home about Thanksgiving, fruits and vegetables, gardens, etc. Talk about fruits and vegetables by color, size (big/little), shape (circle/oval), as well as taste (sweet/bitter/crunchy) and texture (bumpy/smooth).

#4 Take opportunities to play with food- real or pretend food. You can pretend to go grocery shopping, prepare and make a dish, eat, or play in other ways- cut it open and pick out the seeds, use paint and paint with fruits/vegetables, and cook with it. Incorporate something he likes with something he doesn’t like- like apple pie for a child who likes pastries or banana pudding for a child who likes pudding. Be creative and think outside the box. If your child is on a special diet, practice making Thanksgiving items beforehand to judge how your child reacts to them so that you can perfect them before the big day. Eating Right Ontario has a great list of suggestions that vary from exercise with your child to recipes and other ways to play with food.

#3 Play with virtual food. Whether you have access to an ipad or not, there are lots of different computer games and applications that center around food. Spend some time playing some of these games to see what fruits and vegetables your child already knows and which he doesn’t.  For younger kids, games that work on sorting or picking fruits can be simple and enjoyable- play together and use this as a time to talk about the food as you play. For older kids or kids who are reading, check out this word search.

#2 Introduce a few new fruits and vegetables a week. This will depend on your personal preferences and wishes for what you would like to accomplish by Thanksgiving. Having fruits and vegetables in the house is a start. Next, allow your child to see you cutting and preparing the food and of course, eating it. Encourage tasting or even touching, smelling, or licking the fruits and vegetables. If you have a child who has difficulties knowing when he is full, give him small amounts and help him stop before eating too much. Allowing your child to get up and do a preferred activity after eating may help motivate him to stop before overeating.

#1 Hopefully, all of your hard work will pay off today and your child will have a few new choices to eat for Thanksgiving. Prepare them the same way your child liked them originally- don’t try anything new today unless you see some interest. Play it safe. You can provide other foods that your child typically eats as well.

Take time before Thanksgiving to make sure that your family or friends understand your child’s difficulties. This can help avoid additional stress on Thanksgiving day if they understand beforehand that your child is not being rude by not trying their turkey or pumpkin pie. The more you can educate others on your child and his needs, the better off you will be- and less stressed out. Waiting until the day of to discuss your child’s needs may add additional stress and misunderstood.

If you had success using any of these strategies with your child, let me know!