Christmas is challenging enough for neurotypical adults who have the ability to leave the party whenever they want. For a person on the autism spectrum, and especially for a child who is wholly at the whim of their guardians, it can be a true nightmare. Even for adults, it can be fairly bad.
Here are some things to keep in mind when handling a holiday with a person on the Asperger’s or autism spectrum.
This is absolutely the key. Do you have ‘no screen time’ rules? Put them aside. Be prepared to get somewhere late and to leave early. Bring extras of everything. Be as calm, quiet, and settled yourself as you can be. You need to be the foundation onto which they can rest.
Holidays might seem full of tradition, but at their core they are about people who love each other spending time together. That should be far more important than hearing X song or watching X movie. Make new traditions.
You might not understand why your child absolutely demanded to see Santa Claus a half hour ago and now absolutely refuses to go near him. Respect the child’s wishes. People change their mind. Whatever the person is feeling right now, acknowledge it. Know that it is real. It doesn’t matter if you do or do not understand where that emotion came from. Accepting it is there is important.
Just the act of saying you believe them, and that it’s OK, and that together you’ll find a solution, can go a long way.
Cover the Basics
As with so much in life, things get far worse when people don’t get enough sleep, when they’re eating poorly, when they’re not hydrated, and so on. Do your best to maintain a regular schedule – and that goes for all of you.
For some bizarre reason, the holidays are FULL of lies. You have to say you love your present even if you hate it. You have to say you like the food even if it’s disgusting. Kids are told Santa Claus exists and that reindeer can fly because it’s “tradition”. We feel somehow it’s robbing them of their childhood if we don’t lie to them. Somehow we’re OK explaining to kids that they can’t see a unicorn in a zoo because they are make believe, but we’re happy to make up a fat man who watches them like a stalker and sneaks into their house at night.
I think you can see my bias showing.
Still, part of this is an important skill set for all humans in society to learn. You don’t go up to an overweight woman in a restaurant and blurt out, “You are so fat, how did you get so fat?” It’s not socially acceptable. So learning to tell white lies is just a part of how our society works. Now is a good time to start. I’ll cover that wholly as a separate topic.
Another issue I’ve always had with the holidays is that perfect strangers feel it’s quite all right to manhandle you. As a young girl and then woman I found that completely out of bounds. I’m glad society is catching up to that. We should all have the right to say who touches our bodies. It’s a key part of building boundaries and self-respect.
Holidays can be full of blaring music. Off-key carolers. I absolutely avoid malls until the holidays are over. Consider ways to help your spectrum friends and family members stay safe as well. There’s always some sort of a solution.
Do you have any other tips? Let me know!
Santa Claus image sourced from Pixabay / artist 10674425