Christmas and autism… it can be an interesting combination.
Too many changes including new lights, smells, and sounds, along with the excitable energy simmering below the surface of everyone around you. It’s no wonder it can lead to some tricky situations filled with overwhelm and stress.
I know I’m stressed – how did it get to December already?! I’m not prepared! I still have most of the boys’ presents to buy! I haven’t even thought about my dad’s birthday yet (a week and a bit before Christmas Day) and oh god it’s been years since I’ve remembered to send Christmas cards to anyone.
Max first met Santa just two years ago when he was eight.
He just wasn’t able to cope with the sensory overload of visiting Santa’s grotto in any setting until then. He also hadn’t really understood the concept of Santa before. It was an amazing experience, even though it only took ten minutes, but we have a photo to remember it by and was worth every penny, and the epic meltdown he had when we returned home and he could let out all the pent up feelings he’d worked so hard to keep a lid on, bless him.
That’s the thing you see – simple things such as taking your kids to see Santa become a monumentally difficult experience. One that many of us just aren’t able to help our children cope with, so it’s easier to stay home and keep things as normal as possible.
Then again, sometimes the only way we can help our kids become the best they can be is to push those boundaries.
In the last couple of years, Max’s ability to handle new experiences has really come on, with visits to the fairgrounds when they come to town, going to a Halloween party, and enjoying the fireworks at our local display for Bonfire Night.
Christmas can be a time to teach our kids new things.
As soon as he hears Christmas music, Max shouts “It’s CHRISTMAS!”. At first he wasn’t pronouncing it properly, but as he has an extremely naggy mum, he’s already mastered how to say it correctly and delights in telling us “it’s Christmas” multiple times a day!
You’d think this might get old, but honestly I’ve been waiting so long to hear his voice that it just makes me all warm and fuzzy every single time. In saying that, ask me how I feel about it at the end of the month?
The Day itself is a relatively quiet affair for us.
We get up to open presents at whatever time Max wakes for the day. Sometimes that means 7am, and others it’s 4am, like last year. It just depends on when the wee guy wakes for the day really.
He’ll have already shaken Zack awake after going downstairs to see the presents under the tree (we can’t have *any* pressies under there until Christmas morning or they’ll be opened – delayed gratification is yet to be understood. I can totally relate to be honest!), and so I’ll stumble down with my phone, hoping to capture some happy faces as they open their gifts.
Once everyone’s busy with their new toys I can go upstairs and grab a shower, get dressed etc, and then it’s breakfast time. The same as always – toast with crunchy Sunpat peanut butter and a cup of milk with a straw.
We head over to my parents’ for Christmas dinner around 12/1pm and fill our tums while Max goes between his chicken nuggets at the table, and his iPad on the sofa.
Max decides when it’s time to leave – it’s already been a big day with so much excitement for him, then going to Granny and Grandpa’s house, that when he asks to go home we tend to do just that. Last year he managed nearly three hours there which was awesome, so we’re getting there!
Once we get back home it’s time to play again, until the Christmas special of Doctor Who comes on – that one is *always* a family affair! Popcorn, cosy blankets and all the lights out other than the Christmas tree while we see what The Doctor is up to. I’ve gotta admit, I’m ever so slightly proud of my boys being Whovians!
Bedtime is the usual routine, and that’s that! Max will often wake up very early on Boxing Day (any time from 1am has been known!) – basically those days that you think “oh they’ll sleep well tonight!”, you can guarantee that’s the night’s he’s more likely to wake. I don’t know why – I can only assume that it’s because he’s still filled with energy from the many different and exciting things that he’s processed.
Christmas has definitely become easier as Max has grown up.
He’s ten now and understands the idea of Christmas these days. He knows who Santa is and likes Christmas music and movies, and as his ability to do and experience new things increases Christmas is becoming a much more enjoyable time for us here.