Special Needs Families Can Celebrate the Season Too by Ellen Stumbo

For many parents of children with special needs, the Holidays can be quite challenging. The delightful Christmas gatherings and parties can quickly turn into sensory overload and meltdowns for the kids.

There are many special needs families that prefer to stay home rather than dealing with the stress of the festivities. But at home, they wish they could participate a little bit more in the Christmas cheer.

If you know a family that has a child with special needs, reach out to them in the next few days. Invite them over to your house, and ask if them if there is anything you can do to make your time together enjoyable. Believe me, special needs parents are hungry for friendship, and they are waiting for someone to reach out to them.

If you are a special needs family, know that I understand the challenges. I have two daughters with special needs, and one of them has a significant sensory processing disorder. But I want to speak to you, because sometimes we cannot wait for someone to reach out to us. Sometimes, we need to initiate.

Instead of waiting for an invitation, host a gathering and invite a family or two you are close to, or families you would like to get to know better. Tell them in advance about your kids, and ask them to bring something to share! The beauty of Christmas festivities is that many are willing to contribute a dish to a gathering.

Prepare your children! My husband is a pastor, and we recently hosted a Christmas open house at our house. Yes, it was a lot of work. And yes, we took a risk with our daughter, but we had a plan. She knew she could go to her room to be alone, bring the iPad, and watch a show. She didn’t need to go to her room, but she did sit on her own in the kitchen while everyone gathered in the living room.

Special needs parents often feel isolated. I encourage you this season to reach out. Reach out to just one other family, or friend. It might take some work, but it will be worth it!

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com


  1. Hannah Kim says

    So beautiful! When I’m older, I plan to go to Indonesia to adopt Jennifer, a girl with spina bifida. I will put her in swim classes despite her handicap. I’ve seen the Paralympic Swimming 50m competitions.


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