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This Is the Perfect Holiday Photo for My Sensory Sensitive Child

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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 visiting Santa at the mall in our Christmas best.

I love our holiday traditions. Partially because they somehow keep me connected to a magic that could only be found in my childhood, and mainly because it is a way for us to form new happy memories as a family.

But, having a child who is sensory sensitive can sometimes make the holidays a bit of a challenge.

Some of the holiday obstacles our family faces can be easily remedied. We keep the music low as we bake cookies. We Christmas shop early in the morning to avoid large and sometimes overwhelming crowds. We limit our time at holiday gatherings so as to not overload our youngest. We spend a lot of time prior to an event discussing with our girls and preparing them for what will happen.

Yet, despite all of our preparations, there are times when things do not run according to plan. This reality has been hard for me to accept. I like reliability. I live for predictability. I’m learning how to accept the uncontrollable in life.

A prime example of this happened recently, when we went to visit Santa. As is necessary, I processed through the whole event with both of my girls. We talked about what would happen. We shared what we would say to Santa. We planned our outfits, we drove to the mall and we stood patiently in line.

While we waited, I looked at the picture options that showed children in matching outfits, each hair in place, smiles on their faces while happily perched on Santa’s lap. I did my best to decide which picture package I was going to purchase. Was $22.99 a little too pricey for two 4 x 6 images? Should I get the digital option add-on? In my head, I painted a picture perfect photo of my two girls and Santa. A beautiful keepsake. Another year, another memory and another awesome tradition.

As Santa walked to his seat, I watched as joy filled my daughters’ faces. Happy anticipation filled their little bodies as they waved to him. Excitement echoed in their voices as they called out his name.

When it was our turn to sit with Santa, nothing went as I had previously planned and envisioned. Nothing.

Will you be seeing a picture of my child who is sensory sensitive on Santa’s lap? No. Will you see her smiling with Santa? Laughing? Perfectly posed? Nope. No way. Not a chance.

And today, I realized that’s OK.

I may not have a perfect holiday picture of both of my girls with Santa, but I have this one — a picture of them happy, sheer joy dancing across their faces as they experience just a little bit of childhood magic — and this is more than enough.


The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or illness during the holiday season, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: December 6, 2015
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