For most children celebrating Christmas, it is an exciting time of year, but for those with Autism and their families, it can be an extraordinarily challenging time of year.
The simple joys such as opening presents and sitting down to the turkey roast can become flashpoints for those who place huge importance on their routines.
So, how do families with Autistic children make it through this period?
For Dave and his 9-year-old son Daniel, it is a cautious time of year that must be handled delicately.
“All the adverts come out and people start visiting, he cannot understand nor make sense of it. The house looks different, cards and decorations everywhere, and he defiantly acts differently to his usual character. He likes to lock himself in the sanctuary of his bedroom, a place where nothing changes. On the big day, we have learned not to overwhelm him with gifts.”
Previously the family tried to get Daniel to sit down and open all his presents, but he did not cope with the pressure and became very upset. In the end, it took him a week to open his presents. The family is unsure that Daniel comprehends Santa Claus as he finds the character frightening, or that he even understands what Christmas is.
The family says it is difficult for their son to explain what he would like for the big day, leaving them feeling guilty as their other children get what they ask for.
Christmas dinner is a challenge for Daniel too as he fears consuming solid food after having acid reflux as a baby.
“This year he might eat something pureed down or chopped very fine.”
The family told us that people often say how sorry they are/feel that our son has a disability, and how hard it must be for us.
“Yes, it is a challenge at times but as he grows and develops, we learn what works best for him and our family. We do not want nor need pity and words of apologies. Daniel is our boy, he is not special because he has Autism, he is special just like his sisters because he is our child.”
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