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Merry and Bright?


So what is it about the holidays that seems to make your kiddo melt down, just when your to-do list stretches its longest? Is it the change in routine? The anticipation of Christmas morning? Is it just that your patience is short? What if there was something more that could be at issue?

I started working with a client last winter, after her kiddo had several meltdowns during holiday preparations, and generally regressed in his social skills. What we discovered is that her kiddo has difficulty processing and eliminating phenols, as do many kiddos on the spectrum. As a result, he exhibited red cheeks and ears, hyperactivity, aggression, sleep issues, and his stimming increased.

Where do you find phenols entering the home at the holidays? Look no further than the venerated pine tree. Pine trees give off aromatic oils that are high in phenols. These become airborne and fill the house with that especial holiday fragrance that we all know and love. And they also can affect your kiddo’s behavior.

So what to do? After removing the fresh pine tree and wreaths, other decorations can take center stage. There are unscented candles, wreaths made of dried leaves (just not strong smelling, as that indicates phenols), gaily decorated presents, special ornaments on the artificial tree, stockings for each family member that is theirs alone. And no vacuuming up pine needles for the next six months!

This year, my client has skipped the fresh pine tree and indoor wreaths, and she is amazed at the change in the atmosphere at home. There’s still plenty of holiday, she reports, with more cheer. She quipped, “Making the season jolly and bright does not need to include my kiddo’s cheeks and ears!”

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