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Fall 2002 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Making the Most of the Holiday Season

By David Wiley, Transition Specialist, Texas Deafblind Outreach

Now that we are in the midst of the "holiday season", it is a good time to reflect on what makes holidays so special to us: traditions; rituals; helping others; giving and receiving; friends and family. When someone is visually impaired or deafblind, it is possible that many of the things that make holidays so special can be missed, or difficult to fully appreciate. It is important to consider how we make things like decorations, music, pageants, celebrations, parties, and gatherings meaningful to young people with sensory impairments. Some years ago I saw an article in Talking Sense (Winter, 1995), a publication of the National Deafblind and Rubella Association in the UK, that recounted the ways many people who are deafblind joined in holiday traditions.

Holiday Traditions in the UK

That article recounts the story of Janet, whose family has a special Christmas calendar to which Janet attached a new picture or object symbol on each day leading up to the Christmas symbol which is already located on the 25th. Janet also participates in gathering presents to distribute to family members, and joins in cooking the Christmas dinner, and setting the table. Though her mother feels Janet doesn't fully understand the true meaning of Christmas, she enjoys the happy family occasion, and looks forward to the tradition the family has established.

There is also the story of Jacqueline, who especially likes tree lights and brightly colored decorations. For this reason, her family gets her Christmas presents that produce light. The article also mentions another group of people who are deafblind, and live together in a group home, that all receive presents involving light, vibration, aromas, or sweets to make getting gifts enjoyable.

Richard participates in making greeting cards to signify the holidays. He also participates in the shopping, and gets to choose decorations for his room, as well as helping with the Christmas tree. Another group reports punching cloves into oranges to make pomanders for decorations, and filling the home with scents only used doing the holidays. They decorate in meaningful ways. Tinsel and bells are examples of decorations that can be appreciated tactually. Participating in both decorating and packing the decorations away after the season provide clear ways to show the beginning and ending of the holiday time.

What does your family do?

I would like to find out what your family does for the holidays to make them meaningful and enjoyable for your child with sensory impairments. Send me your family traditions and activities for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Years Day. Include family traditions, decorations, and meaningful gifts. Give me some information about your child, and how you have learned to include him or her. If I get plenty of responses, next year I will put together an article on holiday celebrations, Texas style.

So, as you make your way through the holidays, please take time write down what you and your family do. Sharing your ideas is so helpful for other families. Send your thoughts to: David Wiley; Texas Deafblind Outreach; 1100 W. 45th Street; Austin, TX 78759. You may e-mail me at davidwiley@tsbvi.edu.

Don't forget to write. And Happy Holidays.

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Last Revision: August 29, 2003