… and our planning and preparation is in full swing.
Those with autism can have a difficult time enjoying the excitement of Christmas festivities. Our son is no different. The basis of this discomfort is the need for routine. Surprises such as gifts challenge the principles of routine and can build a sense of fear and apprehension with the unknown item inside the package. The putting up of decorations and Christmas trees can create similar fear and anxiety as they are an intrusion into an established environment. Something new and different that needs to be accepted and mentally processed to overcome any thoughts of danger. The number of potential triggers of anxiety are endless and anyone who lives with or cares for a person with autism will understand the importance of a gradual introduction.
We support our son by introducing aspects of Christmas early. We have routines and traditions that we follow so that our son begins to associate the routine with an event that can be enjoyed. Looking through the decoration boxes, reading Christmas tales together, watching Christmas movies are all essential beginnings. Key to a calm Christmas day is to prepare a list for Santa together. Adding things that our son talks fondly about. We create the magic of helping Santa buy the gifts and once our son has carefully looked at and handled them, we wrap them together and place them somewhere he can see and become familiar with this new, but now hidden gift. Don’t for one minute think that this destroys the sense of surprise when the present so opened on Christmas morning, quite the reverse, this process allows our son to feel a surprise that he knows is not a threat and the excitement of opening an item he chose is nothing less than thrilling for us to watch. And his smile is genuine.
I know that the twelve days of Christmas come after Christmas, but we have adapted it to use as an introduction to items of Christmas which will be seen as we head through to the big day. Using photography, I show our son an abstract image which we talk about, trying to guess what it is. The day after I show a picture of the full item and talk about it some more, the day after we display the item in full view. The twelve days begins on 1st December and concludes on Christmas Eve. It’s a little bit of fun, but for us, it works and with other interventions, it helps our son embrace the Christmas festivities more calmly than he once did.
That has got to be worth a smile 🙂