NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be joyous, but it can also be extremely stressful, and not just for adults.

Quinnipiac University Chair of Occupational Therapy Rondalyn Whitney has seen children with sensory processing disorders struggle this time of the year.

“It was supposed to be a fun time, and it was not fun for them,” she said. “They were sad, and parents were falling apart, and it was supposed to be just the opposite.”

With a background in pediatric mental health, she’s spent years helping kids cope when things are off schedule. It’s especially important to navigate for those with autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorders.
She said don’t get hung up on things you buy. Make experiences together like perhaps cooking.

“It doesn’t matter what we’re making,” Whitney said. “As long as I understand the value of this activity and that wonderful feeling you get at the holidays, and that’s what we’re going for with our families and our children.”

Whitney said not to force kids with tactile sensitivities to wear festive clothes.

“Children, by nature, have an immature nervous system, so their reaction to change is going to be immature as well,” she said.

She advises admitting that the holidays are exhausting, and try to slow things down to match your child’s temperament.

“What is the most valuable? So being together, so sitting on the couch, having pizza, under blankets, watching Rudolph is so much better than a big loud something in the park,” Whitney said.