A Letter to My Fellow Special Needs Parents This Holiday Season


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! OK, hear me out. I know the holidays seem loaded with land mines for kids with special needs. They bring questions, uncertainties, health or emotional crises, party/travel/gift anxieties or even uncomfortable interactions with well-intentioned family members.

I’ve been there, friend. My special guy, Nicolas, is about to experience all the highs and lows of his 16th Christmas. 

All the exceptions accounted for, I still love holiday time more than any other for one reason: Santa Claus forever! I think one of my top three favorite things about being a special needs mom is that Santa Claus comes to my house every Christmas morning. Nicolas is 15 years old, and this year when he sits with (a shorter than him) Santa and nervously discusses toys he wants, his eyes will reflect awe, his heart will be aflutter and his whole being will confidently know that Santa is real and is coming to our house this year on Christmas Eve.

So here’s my Christmas advice to all the special parents reading this: Enjoy the innocence of your child this holiday season. However much they understand or experience, soak that in and hold it tight.

Put all the challenges in their appropriate place. Honestly, holidays or not, we’re still gonna have meltdowns, difficulties and unexpected bumps in the road, right? So since that’s just normal life, roll with it this holiday season. That way you’ll have time to breathe in the special moments, whatever they are for your child.

Please don’t overlook the wonder of it all.

My son always reminds me of the pure joy of Christmas. He reminds me that believing as a small child is the way we are all expected to believe, always. Not in Santa, but in the reason Santa spreads gifts all over the world.

I see that played out each year, and I’m so wonderfully reminded of the special gift within. I get teary-eyed every year when I get to re-explain that because it is Jesus’s birthday, a sweet old man in the North Pole gives a gift to every child in the world. And that it is why we give gifts to each other and to strangers. It’s why we sing songs and have parties. Nicolas definitely “gets” the magic of this season — he feels it and enjoys it deeply. I can’t help but be aware that I should be experiencing Christmas a lot more like Nick does.

Santa Claus is such a fleeting moment in most kids’ lives, and the moment seems shorter and shorter these days. But we get Santa every year, and it’s truthfully the best morning of all the other 364. Yeah, by the end of that same day there have usually been one or two “issues,” but the other 364 have those, too. No other day has the Santa moment. That makes it a winner every time. 

Follow this journey on Redefine Special.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or illness during the holiday season. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Other

To the Woman Who Questioned How I Parent My Surviving Child

You’re fat. You’re ugly. You have an awful cheerleader voice. I’ve heard it all over the years. As a television news anchor, it comes with the territory: not everyone will like you. It was a tough pill to swallow early in my career, but the older I get, the more confidence I have about who [...]

8 Holiday Gift Tips for Children With Complex Medical Needs

Buying holiday gifts for kids with complex medical needs can be tricky. Hopefully, these tips can help you find the perfect gift for the special little ones in your life. 1.  Stuffed animals might not be the best go-to gift. An easy, go-to gift people love to get all kids is stuffed animals. They’re cute, soft [...]

Santa Surprises Little Girl Who Had Some Difficulty Talking to Him

We’ve already seen a few Santas go the extra mile this December for kids with special needs, and this St. Nick from the Cleveland Centre in Middlesbrough, England, is no exception. After sitting in Santa’s lap, a little girl had some difficulty communicating. “Sorry, she can’t talk very well,”  the child’s mother is heard saying in the video below. Santa wasn’t fazed; instead, he asked [...]

This Is the Perfect Holiday Photo for My Sensory Sensitive Child

The holiday season is upon us, and in my family — like many others — this is a busy time full of fun and traditions. In our home, the holidays mean baking an assortment of cookies as Christmas music plays in the background. It means bundling up pajama-clad kiddos into the car and looking at Christmas lights. It means [...]