The Easter holidays are nearly here. Here’s a few ideas to make the break enjoyable for everyone.

There are some great sensory friendly events planned over the Easter weekend.

AfriKaa! for Children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions in the National Concert Hall, Dublin will take children on a journey of sound through South Africa’s Limpopo Valley.

In Crokagh Park on the Naas Road in Dublin a Sensory Friendly Easter Egg Hunt  will take place at 10am on Easter Sunday.

If you’re feeling a bit more active the Easter Sunny Bunny Run  in Tullaroan Athletics Club, Co. Kilkenny is a fun event for everyone.  Walkers, runners, wheelchair users – everyone is invited!

If you’re in the Limerick area over the Easter break, be sure to check out Dreamland. It is Ireland’s first all-inclusive play area for kids. It allows sick children all over the country to play together with their siblings and friends. Perfect for a rainy day!

The changes in routine and activities that are fun for most can lead to meltdowns or withdrawal for children who experience sensory overload. If your holiday plans include hunting for brightly coloured eggs filled with sugary treats, find below tips for ensuring a sensory friendly egg hunt that all children can enjoy!

Plan your own Special Needs Friendly Easter Egg Hunt

Use a schedule. Give your child a schedule of events for special activities like egg hunts and large gatherings. Whether it’s a written schedule or one with pictures for younger kids, your child will feel calmer and safer knowing what is coming next. Let your child cross off events once they are complete, and discuss the schedule regularly. Provide info for each event when possible including who will be there and how long each event should last. Let your child know which events will take place outside, which will be loud or crowded, and an approximate time you will leave. Often, just knowing what’s next can help children with behavioural and sensory issues feel less anxiety

Have an egg hunt trial run. If your child is new to the egg hunt tradition, consider having a trial run at home. Allow your child to look for empty eggs just for fun. If he or she has siblings, let them each have a turn separately, and then let them look for eggs together. For children with sensory integration problems and attention issues, knowing what to expect, and what’s expected of them, can significantly lower their anxiety in new or novel situation

Consider having the eggs out in the open to make them easy to find. If you have several children in your home, select one colour for each child, so everyone will get the same amount of eggs. This approach will allow a timid or easy overwhelmed child to hunt for eggs at his or her own pace and eliminate competition for kids with impulse control or behavioural issues.

Think about other adaptations to make the event even more inclusive

For children in wheelchairs, hide mini eggs and trinkets in a plastic container full of rice.

For children with vision impairments, hide the eggs beside something that makes a beeping noise.

Plan for alternative treats if needed. Many children with neuro-behavioural disorders have food sensitives or allergies that prevent them from enjoying the treats that normally fill plastic eggs. Plan ahead so that you can offer alternatives like sugar-free sweets or a gluten-free treat. In addition to allergies, a child with neuro-behavioural disorders often experience negative reactions to artificial colours and sugar-laden foods. So consider non-food items like stamps, temporary tattoos, stickers, rings, and other small trinkets.

Allow your child to opt out. Choose a code word your child can use if he or she feels overwhelmed and needs a break. Assure your child if he or she uses the code word, you will respond right away. Giving children some control during activities that may be overstimulating for them will reduce anxiety, and help them stay calm and organized. Knowing he or she has a way “out” is important. While an egg hunt is fun for most children, some kids may prefer not to take part.

Have a fantastic Easter everyone!