VILLANOVA, Pa., Dec. 14, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Many families who have loved ones with special needs like mental illness or developmental disabilities will be united with them this holiday season. While this can be a joyful reunion, it can also be a stressful time. Devereux, the leading nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with special needs, offers advice and support to families to help them make the most of their family time.
"The holidays present a wonderful opportunity to help erase the stigma too often associated with special needs and mental illness," says Carol A. Oliver, M.S., State Director, Devereux Pennsylvania Programs and Services. "Someone living with special needs can feel further disconnected from others if people ignore or avoid them, especially during the holidays. During this special time, acceptance of an individual's unique needs encourages further development and success."
In preparing for the holidays with family members with special needs, consider the following helpful tips:
- identify issues and stresses related to holiday celebrations ahead of time so that they can be diffused before a problem arises;
- maintain open communication with all family members to create clear expectations and minimize misunderstandings;
- identify a support system and reach out when needed;
- be realistic about your expectations of a special needs individual; and
- encourage a "time out" for caregivers of at least 15 minutes every day to ensure their own needs are being met.
"Take the time to celebrate the person your family member is today as you support him in meeting the challenges that await him tomorrow," says Patricia Hillis-Clark, Psy.D., Clinical Director of Devereux's Mapleton day school programs in Malvern, PA. "More than gifts, it is their family's time and attention that is so exciting and wonderful for individuals with special needs."
Devereux suggests that family and friends include loved ones with special needs in holiday activities to the degree that they are able to participate. Setting aside time for family traditions like baking special foods, decorating the house, wrapping gifts, or attending community celebrations gives the family member something to look forward to. If there is to be a large gathering of family and friends, it's a good idea to plan ahead by preparing those who might not be aware of the situation.
Devereux offers an abundance of professional resources that can be used to develop and implement a treatment plan. Visit www.devereux.org to learn more or to locate the nearest Devereux center. To speak with a specialist, contact Devereux at 1-800-345-1292.
Devereux is a leading national nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, behavioral disorders and mental illness. Founded in 1912 by Philadelphia school teacher Helena Trafford Devereux, the Devereux Philosophy of Care focuses on bringing out the strengths of each individual through research-based assessment and treatment programs. Devereux employs 6,000 staff and operates 15 centers in 11 states, providing both residential and community-based services to more than 15,000 children and adults annually. For more information, visit www.devereux.org.
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