Sunday, December 7, 2008

For the Holidays

Just a reminder that the Holidays can really suck if you have a child with autism. Sucks for them, sucks for you, sucks for everyone around. In regards to the kids, it's mostly overstimulation. Too much going on, changes in their routine, overload of gifts and people and BOOM! Meltdown City. Sometimes it just can't be helped, but try your best to make things business as usual for your kids on the spectrum. Don't let your relatives push you or your kids into a situation that will lead to even more chaos. If you have determined that your kids can only handle opening 3 gifts at a time without going into a paper tearing, package wrecking frenzy, then don't let great aunt Sally push another present on little Johnny as she says, "Oh, it's just one more! What can it hurt? I want to see his face when he opens it!" (side note: often little Johnny will not ever remember who gave him what, let alone remember who great aunt Sally is.) If this does happen, great aunt Sally will be the one with the weird look on her face as little Johnny opens the present, takes one look and tosses it aside, as it's not what he's currently fixated on. It's also a very lonely time of year for us grownups. Often, even our families don't fully comprehend what autism is (heck, they don't live it 24/7). They shake their heads at the kids' outbursts, furrow their brows and look aghast at the weird behaviors, and often will request that you and your 'special' kids come late and leave early, if you're invited at all. You'd think that people would be more accommodating, as it's the kids that have the disability, yet all sorts of otherwise 'typical' adults are either so uncomfortable with your kids autism or so inflexible at having their 'good' holiday 'ruined' that they just don't want you & your non-typical mess around. I learned, after many years of trying to integrate the boys into the usual family gatherings, that it was too rough on the boys, as well as me. Now we host Christmas Eve at my house, we invite everyone, and only ask that people let us know how many are coming, so we can have enough food and time to prep the boys. This is good for the boys, who can wander off at will and play with those things that are familiar to them. The problem with this set-up is that a lot of time, not everyone comes, or they will come late and leave early so as not to have to deal with the autism world too long. Either way, you often find yourself alone for a good chunk of the holidays, with only your autistic non-social kids to keep you company. I have no solution to this, other than to tell you to keep tabs on your friends who also have kids on the spectrum, because they're the only ones who really know what you're going through. Total side note but also relevant - please be careful of light displays with blinking or flashing lights. These can often trigger seizures in special needs kids, and just because yours hasn't had one yet doesn't mean it's never going to happen. Better to be safe than in the emergency room on Christmas. Bobbie is the mother of twin boys with autism, one high-functioning and one lower-functioning. She doesn't have time to blog, but you can follow her on twitter: @Bobbie42