When it comes to discussing autistic children and their love (or not) of Christmas, they seem to fall into two camps, not dissimilar to any other children.
Love or Hate
I’ve heard countless stories over the years of autistic children who really seem to struggle over Christmas and their parents have to adapt every single typical festive activity or even omit it completely. You see, for many children it’s just far too overwhelming. The change of routine, the physical changes within the home, sensory overload whilst Christmas decorations are draped around the house and parents promise the arrival of a random old bloke who dresses in red and leaves muddy footprints all through the house.
For Joseph, as Christmas approaches, we’ve never experienced him upset but he has never seemed to grasp the Christmas concept and I guess has been somewhat indifferent to the whole event. I’ve been accused on many occasions of being a Christmas Grinch but the truth is, I did once love Christmas…at Christmas (not to be confused with someone who has wanted to start celebrating 4-6 weeks before). Now, I have adapted my expectations as I know now that part of why I’ve been disappointed over the years is because I’ve wanted to transfer my excitement over to Joseph and that simply has never happened.
His language has developed of late and rather than telling me “No Christmas”, he’s gone as far as saying “Christmas is bad”, which I have to be honest is a bit of a kick in the nuts, especially when there are other children to consider. I’ve tried to explore why it is bad but unfortunately, his communication isn’t quite there for him to be able to elaborate any further.
He doesn’t want any presents, he’s made that clear and he’s never distressed on the day itself, he would rather just carry on as he normally does with iPad in hand. I’ve gently introduced a couple of Christmasy things like the advent calendar and he’s over the moon with the Haribo one I managed to find. We’ve shown him a toy catalogue and his response is an exceptionally polite “No, thank you”.
I even took him to the Christmas section within a store just to see how he felt about it, tentatively gauging his reaction. Again, he seemed indifferent, not particularly interested until he saw a Christmas hat and then decided for himself that he was going to try it on. He did look
absolutely ridiculous ridiculously cute but we went with the flow!
There are a few toys that I’m certain he would be pleased with and one of these is Mashems and Fashems (I know, I was bloody clueless too). Basically they are small toys in boxes that cost a couple of quid, he opens them and then discards them. If it wasn’t for the fact he discards them after 30 seconds, I was tempted to buy him twenty.
I’ve been guilty in the past of saying he can’t have certain toys because I believed he was too old to be playing with them. That and the fact that some of the noises they make actually get on my tits; specifically Peppa Pig and In The Night Garden. But you know what, I’m at a point now where I simply want him to have a nice day however that is shaped and if that means me having to endure an annoying pig and Makka Pakka posing about with his stones, then so be it, I’ll take one for the team.
So once again, if I don’t share your joy for the 1st December, not strategically placing an elf around the house, hoping not to frighten the shit out of my kid and belting out Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, it’s not because I’m a total misery.
Its because I want my autistic son to have the best Christmas possible and that may mean removing some of the usual traditions.
When I reflect on previous Christmases and my approach, I realise how much both Joseph and I have changed and developed. I’m not too concerned on doing what’s right because it’s tradition or getting instagram-worthy photos, I’m more enthused about making it as easy for him as possible so that in future years he is more at ease and maybe, just maybe, one year Christmas will actually be good.
*and please DO NOT ask me what he wants for Christmas, as the answer will be “I don’t know!!!”