It’s the Most Bustling Time of the Year

Tips to make your holidays run as smoothly as possible

Whether you regard the holiday season like Buddy the Elf or the Grinch, it’s here to celebrate and prepare for! While attending holiday events, participating in fun activities and seeing family and friends can be overjoying for some, it can overwhelming for others, particularly for children with ADHD, ASD, and/or those whose sensory systems become easily dysregulated. This month, we offer some suggestions for dealing with the unpredictability that this celebratory season often brings, and highlight a therapeutic program that may come in hand for many of our families this season.

As 2021 comes to a close, we at CTC reflect on the progress that all of our wonderful clients have made, and acknowledge the hard word and sacrifices of incredible parents like you. We thank you and give our best wishes for a happy season and year!


Snow Globe Wishes

Snow Globe Wishes, a recipient of 2019’s Top 20 Goodreads Choice Awards outlines one little girl’s wish that results in her family setting aside their busy lives to simply play with each other and their community.

Weighted lap pad (Amazon)

Weighted lap pads are a wonderful, portable sensory tool that can help children feel calm and regulated during moments of stress. There are a large variety of these currently available online!

For other product ideas that target improved sensory processing, oral motor and language skills, please ask to “shop” at CTC’s very own product table, located within our clinic!

Tips to Prepare for the Holiday Hustle

Strategies to streamline your festivities

For many children who thrive on structure and familiarity, the holiday season – typically known as a joyous and carefree time – can be a terrifying experience that hijacks all the fun. Routines are often abandoned during this time in order for families to experience an array of events and family traditions that come only once a year, leaving many children frazzled and prone to temper tantrums. The following suggestions take these challenges into consideration:

Choose events carefully and conservatively

While parents cannot and should not stick to an unchanging routine every day, limit holiday events to those that are most important to you and your family’s values. It’s not necessary to attend every activity in the community or every family party, as it may create more stress than it’s worth; however, it is important to expose your child to novel environments and experiences. In this case- as in most- quality is truly over quantity, so choose with care.

Make prepping fun

Help prepare your little ones for larger parties by calling hosts ahead of time and politely requesting their guest list. You and your child can make a placecard for each guest, helping them know what/who to expect while also incorporating a fun and light-hearted activity to ease any anxiety.

Take a break

It’s all too easy for discussions around the holidays to revolve around – well, the holidays. Take a break every now and then this month from talking about, reading about or watching movies about this season and all its traditional events. Even this can be stressful to some kids.

Carry a sensory toolkit

Pack a “toolkit” of sensory items that you can bring with you to any and all events you have this season. This can include items such as squishy balls, fidgets, a weighted vest, a sound machine, a tension ball, a chewy tube, essential oils, etc. Consider it your arsenal for when the going gets rough.

Get everybody on board

It may be a helpful strategy to be open with your family about the challenges you and your child experience during holiday get-togethers. Perhaps a relative could provide a “safe space,” such as a quiet room with dimmed lights and soft music, that you and/or your child can go to when things get a bit overwhelming for your little one.


You may be embarassed by your child’s behavior this season. You may feel angry and frustrated that you just can’t attend an event without drama. While this is understandable, the most important thing that you can do for your child who struggles with regulating their feelings and sensory needs is to empathize with them. Acknowledge how they feel, tell them you understand, offer deep squeezes (if that is what they need), and continue using strategies such as these to ease their challenges in any way you can.

Use consistent language

Teach phrases to your child at a level that they can understand. Of particular use to many families this season and beyond may be The Zones of Regulation, an approach that is discussed further in the next article.

Prepping for Winter Wonderland

CTC’s annual Winter Wonderland festivities are under way!

Jovie the Elf

Reindeer Races

Snowman Box Building

The Zones of Regulation for Holiday Sanity

How an effective cognitive-behavioral framework can help

As we covered, the holidays are a time of year when children with emotional regulation issues are prone to high levels of frustration and anxiety due to the season’s hectic and often unexpected nature. These children benefit from a systematic approach that helps them to cope with changes and challenges all year long, one in particular being: The Zones of Regulation.

The Zones of Regulation is a cognitive-behavioral approach developed by OT Leah Kuypers that focuses on helping children obtain and maintain a state of self-regulation. It references four different zones, each a different color – blue, green, yellow or red – with each zone representing a group of similar feelings. Feeling sad, sick or tired? You’re in the blue zone. Are you angry, devasted or out of control? That’s the red zone. By using vocabulary terms relating to various emotional states accompanied by visuals of color categories and sketches of children’s facial expressions, children obtain the social/pragmatic awareness that’s needed to recognize the feelings of others and the ability to understand the way that others perceive their behaviors. The approach also teaches strategies that children can use to regulate or maintain their emotions, depending on which zone they are.

The curriculum emphasizes the importance of all team members knowing and understanding the “Zones language,” and offers tips on helping children identify their Zone, understand how their behavior is affecting others, and use an appropriate strategy to regulate their emotion-driven behaviors.

Be sure to ask your child’s OT about The Zones of Regulation to learn more about this program and to begin implementing some strategies based on your therapist’s input.