If I could ask regular classroom teachers for one “favor” before a long holiday, it would be this: Please don’t let your class run on autopilot in the midst of other schedule changes. What am I talking about? Keeping the plane in the air until the last bell rings. Imagine this scenario: Your class is going to watch a special holiday play or sing at a nursing home. The kids know what they’ll be watching (hopefully) and they have practiced their holiday songs. But before and after these special events? Your class is on autopilot as you take care of paperwork, clean up after holiday meals, or organize all those handmade decorations. Some kids are sorting their work into bags and others may be cleaning up their tables. Most of your class will be fine with “free time,” socializing, perhaps reading, or zoning out. But your special needs kids with social weaknesses? Your kids who are very active and distracted? They are likely to get into squabbles or other mischief without teacher direction. They are the ones who end up being sent to my room or some other place to chill out.
Your class is watching a movie? How much more entertaining can things get? Again, for special needs kids, a movie can be boring or overstimulating, too long or too familiar. What now?
Consider some alternatives for kids who cannot handle long, unstructured periods of time, including those movie times that most kids enjoy. I am sure you could identify which kids might potentially struggle, so that makes it easier to create a backup plan for them. Perhaps they need to go to a different space, like the library or a computer lab. Perhaps a packet of holiday puzzles, favorite books, or sticker activities would help them stay engaged productively. Maybe some of the more socially adept kids could be their partners in holiday games. Ask the resource teacher or other specialists if you are uncertain.
Remember that structure = success for many special needs kids. And happy holidays!