Christmas and the Autistic Child

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Most children like Christmas right? For many on the autistic spectrum, Christmas is a stressful time of year. The inevitable changes to routine are enough to send some children spiralling into one meltdown after another..

Same for autistic parents.

The Boy’s anxiety has been climbing for weeks. As soon as things change at school his behaviour deteriorates. He’s on a VERY short fuse and the simplest of requests, like taking his coat off, has him throwing stuff and stomping off upstairs screaming that he wants to DIE. He’s eight going on thirteen only this is him BEFORE the hormones kick in!

Can you imagine when they do?

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Trip hazard? Or my son when the testosterone kicks in?

The Boy’s need for me is ever greater as he battles with a brain that struggles to cope with Christmas. He likes Christmas but struggles with it just as he struggles with a lot of other things he likes.

There are no decorations up at our house yet as we’re trying to keep stimulus to a minimum and my anxiety is so bad that the mere thought of them makes my heart race. The control freak within me struggles to allow other people to do it and in the past when I have let the kids, er, ‘help’, I have stood there fighting the urge to rugby tackle them to the floor in order to prise the baubles from their clammy little hands. *whispers* I re-did it once they were in bed. It’s something I don’t like about myself but it’s a pathological need for certain things to be aesthetically pleasing in my eyes.

When it comes to visiting Santa, forget it. It’s a sensory nightmare.

Queuing = Hell.

Noise = Hell.

Migraine inducing fairy lights = Hell

Sitting on Santa’s knee. Do they still do that? = Hell.

I hated it as a child. The Boy managed one minute in a queue once and we had to leave. Do your child and yourselves a favour and go to an autism friendly session where the visits are timed, you can take your own present. Visiting Santa should be a pleasant experience for every child, no?

There are things you can do as a non-deranged parent to make things a little easier for your autistic child.

Decorations

  • You can involve your child in buying decorations or letting them help you to put them up.
  • Introduce the decorations gradually. It’s probably best not to have it looking like Santa’s Grotto if your child gets easily overstimulated.
  • Give some thought to your Christmas lights. If your child is very sensitive, a migraine inducing strobe effect probably isn’t the best idea. Static or gentle fade in and fade out lights will be more appropriate.
  • Use countdowns for putting the decorations up and taking them down.
  • Use social stories and visual calendars.

Visiting Santa

  • Check your local papers/social media for autistic friendly Santa-sessions

Presents

  • Mountains of presents will overwhelm most autistic children so it’s best to limit how many they get or don’t put them all out on Christmas Day.
  • If your child has sensory issues pay attention to the paper you use to wrap the presents with.
  • If unwrapping make them anxious then don’t wrap them at all.
  • Place a familiar toy next to the new presents.
  • Try some gentle classical Christmas music in the background especially if classical soothes them normally.

Family

Don’t feel under pressure from your family. If you know your child can’t cope with a big family get together on Christmas Day, then don’t be afraid to tell them to sod off – albeit politely. Your child’s well-being has to come before Great Aunt Ada parking her arse on your sofa all day scoffing the Quality Street eh? Life is different when you have an autistic child. If people get it, great. If they don’t, educate them until they do get it. Maybe give them a book on understanding autism as a Christmas present?

Familiarity

Christmas Day is just the three of us. There are no visitors. There is no Christmas dinner with party hats and other such paraphernalia. The Boy has his usual food and bedtime is the usual time with the usual ritual of a story and his Classic FM.

The Rules are that there are NO rules when it comes to autism. Each person is different. Some love Christmas, some don’t. All autistic people are affected but not necessarily in a negative way.

Me? I find Christmas stressful BUT it’s also the season of fairy lights and I BLOODY LOVE fairy lights!!

As a child I used to lie on the floor under the Christmas tree and stare at them for hours on end. My Nan, having downed a few brandies, would say, “You’re a funny little girl” I used to wonder why she was calling me funny when I hadn’t said or done anything funny. Now I know she was calling me weird. MY OWN GRANDMOTHER!!

Christmas is difficult for me in ways which most people wouldn’t understand. I’m not a Christmas hater – it’s just that there is too much going on and that sends my anxiety orbital. Social media is crammed with Christmas. TV is bombarding us with adverts/mini-movies for the hard sell and it gives me a headache. If I could cherry pick bits of Christmas it would be lights, carols and the act of giving. You can keep the crowds, commercialism and my pet peeve, ‘Secret Santa’.

I don’t suppose it helps matters that my father decided to shuffle off his mortal coil on a Christmas Day. To lose someone you love on any day of the year is bad enough but to lose them on Christmas Day is epically crap. The image of Dad’s lifeless body while Noddy Holder screeched “IT’S CHRISSSSSSSTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS” is forever seared into my memory and while I fight to bring forward the memories where he was the life and soul of Christmas, this one always wins.

As regards The Boy, we try to keep things as close to normal as is possible. Whatever ‘normal’ is.

Header Image via Creative Commons

 

 

Mumisms: Things My Mother Used To Say

Parents have a language all of their own. Some phrases we understand, like ‘NO, YOU CAN’T’ and ‘I’M GOING TO COUNT TO TEN’ but there are other things we haven’t a clue about because they don’t make sense. You probably find yourself using the same lingo with your own children because it’s ingrained, innit? You wake up one day and you’ve gone from relatively cool to OH MY GOD, I AM MY MOTHER! It’s a rite of passage of Motherdom, along with droopy boobs and incontinence.

My mother, bless her, had a plethora of phrases that I’d like to share with you readers..

Number 10

‘Gone For A Burton’

Meaning: A reference to a person who had died or an item that was broken.

First heard at the age of 7 when I limped into the kitchen with a broken strap on my brand new sandals. Mum took a puff on her fag and said, ‘Well. That’s them gone for a Burton then.’ I didn’t know who or what this ‘Burton’ was. Richard Burton was big at the time so it could have been him. All I know is that I cried PROPER TEARS over those wretched sandals because in those days, money was short and I knew I wasn’t going to get another pair anytime soon. *sobs*

Number 9

‘Clod-Hoppers’

Meaning: A rough, unsophisticated countryman.

Since the early 19th century, in the UK and USA, ‘clod-hoppers’ were also the name given to ploughmen’s boots.

Mum used to refer to my eldest brother’s 1970s platform shoes and work-boots as ‘Clod-Hoppers’. My brother would often be greeted at the door with, “And you can take those clod-hoppers off as well, Matey!”

Number 8

‘Getting On My Wick’

Meaning: Annoy me; get on my nerves.

Usually heard during weekends and school holidays, especially Wimbledon fortnight. Alone, my brother and I were tolerable. Together, we were little shits.

“You two are getting on my wick. Go to the park!”

Number 7

‘You’ve Blotted Your Copy Book’

Meaning: To do something that makes other people trust you less.

In our case, it was any minor misdemeanor at home or at school. Ink and blotting paper were still a thing in the 70s so I took it quite literally until it was explained to me…

Number 6

‘Away With The Fairies’

Meaning: Not facing reality; in a dreamworld.

Where Mum thought I always was…

Number 5

‘Guts For Garters’

Meaning: A threat of a serious reprisal.

“If you come home late, I’ll have your (varying expletives) guts for garters!”

This saying probably originated from the Middle Ages where they liked to disembowel people and stuff.

Number 4

‘I’ll Give You..’

This one was where, whatever we said to Mum, she would turn it back on us.

Me “I’m bored”

Mum “I’ll give you I’m bored!”

Me “Yeah, in a minute, Mum.”

Mum ” I’ll give you in a minute!”

Me “Why?”

Mum “I’ll give you why”

You get my drift?

The variation on ‘I’ll give you is I’ll give it you.

Or on hearing me WHISPERING an expletive..

“I’LL BLOODY WELL GIVE IT YOU IN A MINUTE, MY GIRL!”

It meant a wollop on the backside so at this point I’d fly out out through the back door flicking Mum the V’s from inside my coat pocket. She rarely caught me but I would ALWAYS return to find my Jackie mag cancelled, damn it.

Number 3

‘Because I Said So’

That’s why.

Number 2

‘The Pits’

Meaning: the WORST possible person, place, or thing.

In this case, my brother’s bedroom.

Mum to Dad “His bedroom is the bloody pits! Records as coasters and unidentified life-forms in cups? That’s it. I’m on strike!.”

To be fair, it WAS a pit. We’re talking MAJOR BIO-HAZARD here.

Number 1

‘I’ll Swing For You’

I think I have the album somewhere. Or is it Swing When You Are Winning? Anyhoo. Initially I took this literally and pictured Mum having a fun time on the swings in the local park. I thought this was DEAD FUNNY, albeit highly unlikely. However the imagery didn’t match her frowny expression, so I came to realise that it meant that I’d done something wrong.

WHOOOOOPS!

Often, a minor expletive would be inserted for dramatic effect so it became “I’ll SODDING well swing for you” Later on I came to realise the origin of the phrase came from HANGING, as hanging was still in fashion in my mother’s day. Mother saying she’d ‘swing’ for us meant that she’d murder us and be hung for her crime. However, she would never have actually murdered us. She wasn’t fast enough for a start. She came close several times – especially during her menopausal years when she was a bit, well, psycho.

Sometimes this phrase was used in jest but mostly we knew we were in deep poo if we heard it and we’d suddenly be incredibly helpful – like doing the dishes without being told or tidying our rooms, including Bro’s ‘pit’.

Occasionally, I catch myself muttering ‘Because I said so’ and I start twitching and have to go shout at some crisp packets as self-punishment. My mother may have passed on her early menopause to me, but there is no way I’m talking like her as well. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

*twitch*

It pays to be as literal as possible when you have an autistic child, trust me. Saves time. Maybe you recoginse a few of these from your own childhoods? Feel free to share!

Next time, Dadisms.