This is a stressful time in our ASD household. Christmas brings so much change to normal daily routine with a Christmas tree being put up, Christmas activities at school, presents, family and friends coming to visit over Christmas, sensory overload caused by bright lights, music on high volume when out shopping etc.
Our youngest son’s life revolves around how many sleeps until the weekend, holidays, particular event etc. This year is the first year he has associated a chocolate advent calendar with the countdown to Christmas and it has confused him, as the doors are opened according to the date it is in December, rather than how many sleeps like the countdown charts we use at home. Next year, we will have to open up the doors in reverse order, so that we can arrive at number 1 on Christmas Eve and not 24.
December is always a busy month for our daughter and in the space of five days she performed twice in the school panto, sang in London with the school choir and performed at the Indigo Theatre at the O2 with her drama group. She is driven by her goals and last week seemed a bit flat in comparison to the highs she experienced performing the previous week. To compensate it, she has now written herself a bucket list for the Christmas holidays to ensure she reaches some new goals.
Our Christmas tree went up when the kids packed up school. So far so good and it is still standing upright. It will come down soon after Christmas, as our youngest son will not tolerate it being up in the living room for too long. At the other extreme, our daughter has had a tree up in her room since the end of November and if this year is anything to go by, it is not likely to come down before Easter. She finds it to be a useful deterrent to keep her youngest brother out of her bedroom as he doesn’t like looking at it.
We continue to not wrap up presents for our youngest son, as if we do, it causes him too much anxiety. He likes to be able to see what he is receiving, rather than getting a surprise. If it means he is happier and more likely to play with his toys, then it’s the best thing to do for him. We do the same on his birthday as well and makes the day run a lot smoother than it used to. We also spread presents over a few days, as otherwise our youngest son is overwhelmed. Our other children are quite happy with this arrangement as it means the magic of Christmas goes on for longer.
To cope with sensory overload caused by the change that Christmas brings, our youngest son has been engaging in lots of sensory activities and watching the same DVDs over and over again. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard him sing Hakuna Matata from Lion King in the past couple of weeks and how many times he has watched Curious George. He always returns to old favourites when he’s anxious and has been spending some of his time acting out being a monkey or lion with the relevant sound effects.
The next few days will remain quiet in our house, so that our youngest son can cope with Christmas. To ensure our eldest son gets some time to release his energy, as he wants to be out and about, he is doing a two day rugby training course at Saracens from tomorrow. Our daughter is working through her bucket list, so she is happy as well.
Christmas is probably a quieter event in our household compared to most, but as long as all three of our kids are happy, then we are happy. We don’t conform to what is expected of Christmas, instead we do what works for us as a family.