Christmas is coming – so the Compass Team elves have put their heads together to come up with a few ideas for the festive season.

Remember the Brownie Guide law?! Be prepared!

• Preparing the kids. Perhaps the first thing is to get children and young people prepared for what can be an overwhelming time of year. It will depend on your child’s disability, but timetables, timelines or social stories can be really helpful in the run up to Christmas and New Year.

Some children feel reassured by ‘social stories’. Often used with children and young people on the Autistic Spectrum, they’re short descriptions and pictures of a particular situation that help children understand what to expect and why. As routines tend to change so much over the festive period, a social story could be a way to encourage discussion and help them prepare, If you have a speech and language therapist working with your family, they should be able to help you create a social story. Alternatively, the National Autistic Society website has some guidance and ideas – see

If a social story isn’t likely to work, consider a simple visual timetable or timeline. These visuals allow more time for the information to be processed and will give your child or young person the stability of seeing how their routine is going to change. Again, your speech and language therapist should be able to help you. Or you can find free resources on the ‘I Can’ website –

• Stock up at your local. Get down to the local library before the holidays to load up with DVDs and audiobooks – you can borrow them for free with a Compass Card. So if the kids are starting to fight on Christmas Day, you can grab the popcorn and get a movie on. And don’t forget a good audiobook can save the day if you’re travelling over Christmas. West Sussex libraries also loan communication devices for free to Compass Card holders – find out more here –

The big escape

Feeling stir-crazy? Sometimes, getting out of the house is the best thing you can possibly do. Have a couple of rescue plans in mind before the holidays start.

• A trip out to the local park can make all the difference, or you could try something more challenging. The National Trust website lists some great festive walks in West Sussex , from the rolling South Downs to winter landscapes at Standen, Nymans and Petworth. Find out more here – For a post-Christmas walk, Bosham Harbour is great for blowing the cobwebs away – and Compass Card partner Wendy’s @ Bosham is open all over Christmas, apart from Christmas Day. In Brighton and Hove, Stanmer Park is a popular option and Stanmer Park Tea Rooms is open over Christmas, with the exception of Christmas Day.

• Sea Life in Brighton is also open every day over Christmas, apart from Christmas Day itself. We’ve had some good reports about the centre recently. Here’s what one parent told us at the end of November: “The sensory area where children can touch rockery sea life is even better and very inclusive. Also, there are little people tunnels and smaller tanks to allow children to get up close and personal to fish they will recognise from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.” One carer goes free if you take the Compass Card.

• If you fancy making a big splash, Arundel Lido is open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day from 10am to 1pm – and although it’s outdoors, the pool is heated. Hot drinks and festive snacks will be available and there’s no need to book. Prices are £5 for adults, £2.50 for under 16s. Under fives go free.

• A trip to the cinema could be a lifesaver too. The latest Star Wars film, Rogue One (12A), is on at Rogue One film scene
several cinemas across Brighton and Hove and West Sussex (including the Duke ofYork’s Brighton and Cineworld Chichester) and you’ll find many of them open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

If you need help and support over the festive period

Amaze’s helpline (01273 772289) and West Sussex’s IAS service helpline (0330 222 8555) will be taking a break over the Christmas period, but there is help if you need it.

• Family Lives (formerly Parentline) – a parent-focused helpline run by the national charity Family Lives. Call free on 0808 800 2222.
• Sussex Mental Health Line – for mental health queries outside of office hours call 0300 5000 101. Open 24 hours over Bank Holidays and weekends.

Look out for our ‘Festive recovery’ blog on 12 January.
Wishing you and your family a very happy Compass!