How tradition can help individuals with special needs
“Without our traditions we are as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.”
–Fiddler On The Roof, 1964
Tradition = Regulation
I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions lately (both religious and otherwise); observing them, creating them and seeing them through the eyes of my kids.
It occurred to me that traditions and rituals are actually a form of regulation – daily, weekly, monthly and annual regulation.
The more we do something, the more we can predict the basic framework, and within it we are given an opportunity to learn deeper, and become more connected to the people we care about (and also to ourselves!).
For kids with diverse abilities and needs, this can be a beautiful way to spotlight growth and accomplishment.
Participating in Holiday Celebrations
I think of all the years my nephew was unable to participate in holiday celebrations because of his sensory issues and anxiety. There were years we used a glass cake saver over our seder plate so that Leo’s senses would not be assaulted. There were entire grades of school during which he would pray outside the door every morning, peering in as his classmates. It was so difficult for him. So much to manage.
But now he leads.
His voice is the loudest and his pitch perfect.
He’s passionate about the food at holiday meals – he plans it, often prepares it, and many times, he even eats it!
He dances with total abandon to holiday music.
He is freer in this framework and his personality shines through. His learning layers each year and so does his confidence.
So it’s possible, that traditions are even more important for people who struggle to find predictability in a dynamic world.
Recently our parenting therapist suggested my husband and I begin some family rituals that only include the four of us. For me, it has become something I can count on and look toward to every week.
If something unexpected happens, my kids are building resilience within that ritual, and so am I.