The holidays are upon us! Does this sentence stress you out? It certainly stresses me for a variety of reasons and having a child with autism topped that list for many years. My son Drew is now 18 and truly enjoys the holidays, but as we get ready to fly to visit the grandparents for Thanksgiving, I think back (with a smile) on the long bumpy road of stressful holidays we experienced when he was little. Leading up to Thanksgiving had its own challenges.
Drew’s rigidity simply did not allow him to ignore all of the Christmas decorations that appeared after Halloween. “But we haven’t done Thanksgiving yet!!!”
While I agreed with him, we beat a hasty retreat out of MANY stores during the month of November. While he enjoys Thanksgiving (and the food) now, I don’t think he sat at the Thanksgiving table for more than two minutes until he was 13! And Christmas? Ugh. The temper tantrums he would throw after all the presents were opened put a serious damper on our holiday cheer. While I knew it wasn’t about the gifts, he was simply overwhelmed with excitement and emotion; but to family, it made him simply look like a spoiled brat.
Remember this autism journey is a marathon, not a sprint. And that goes double for family who only see your child once or twice a year. Everyone wants the holidays to be joyful, magical and fun – especially for children. Well, for kids with autism that picture doesn’t always come to life.
Recently, I came upon a letter that I found many years ago, written from the voice of a person with autism. It was written by “mom of” Viki Gayhardt and published in an Autism Society newsletter. While some of the language could be updated a bit, it is so well written and captures the many things we would all like our family and friends to “get” about our kids. Click here to download and please feel free to print it and share. Hopefully, this will make the holidays with family a little easier.
So breathe deeply, and enjoy your holidays, no matter how bumpy the ride!
by Maryanne Nugent, Autism Community Consultant for AHSS and Mother of a son with autism