Subscribe now and recieve 50% off all our ebooks as well as updates on all our online special needs resources.
BY Sara

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.

Family Rituals

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.


Written on May 15, 2012 by:

Sara Winter is a mom of two boys and the founder of a recreational application for kids with autism to connect with one another.
  • YES!!!  Individuals with disabilities often need MORE tradition, MORE inclusion into community activities to learn self-regulation.  My religious background is Catholic, and my son has always loved the longest, most repetitive traditional prayers and rituals, and he is now the world’s most enthusiastic altar boy – with support from our clergy and fellow altar servers.  Secular traditions, such as celebrating the first day of summer vacation or getting ready to start the school year or raking leaves in the fall, offer important learning opportunities for all types of life skills.  Tradition is a wonderful way to teach our children to make meaningful contributions to our communities.

  • Lisa Neely

    VERY TRUE !! My son strives on rituals. Incorporating these into his day, week and year is very helpful ! We do Friday night pizza (our son’s favorite food), something to look forward to at the end of a busy week !


Notice: Use of undefined constant fbTracking - assumed 'fbTracking' in /var/www/ on line 52