Celebrating Christmas with Autism -Welcome Santa!

“Drat, no presents again…”

It is what I have heard each morning since we put up the Christmas tree.

Our almost 7 yr old high functioning child seems to really enjoy Christmas, its premise a little more understandable in comparison to Halloween or Easter.

He will sit quietly through the Santa parade or a work Christmas party and he even tolerates the ridiculous line ups to visit Santa.

The tradition of decorating the tree is an enjoyable one for my Son. He likes to see pretty things hanging from the boughs and he will comment on other nicely decorated trees.

I hate to make light of Lincolns understanding of Christmas but I find it is a perfect example of a childs impatience…his coming down each morning to think Christmas surely MUST be here now!

An advent calender would likely assist in this matter, but you know, with 4 small kids in the house, the chocolate has less chance of surviving till the 25th then a pair of Manolo blahniks at Giant Tiger.

Some things we do have to alter for a smoother, happier Holiday season are:

Banning of Frosty the Snowman. – for whatever reason, my son becomes captivated with the magician that drops the eggs in his tricks for the class. He likes to re-inact this segment in my fridge and kitchen, often getting through half dozen eggs before I hear him. Sometimes he gathers his brothers and has them act it out too. Many an innocent egg has found early demise due to Frosty.

Visit Santa during slower periods OR wait in line separate THEN bring Lincoln in.

When Lincoln was 3 and 4 it was next to IMPOSSIBLE to have him wait in line. My hair would fall out just thinking of it. We decided to wait in line with other kids and then one of us would shop with LIncoln in the mall until Santa was ready to visit with us. A quick text notifying us that Santa would be with us soon and the parent keeping Lincoln busy and stimulated would zip back to line and get a decent visit with Santa out of the kid. At three Lincoln wiggled on Santas lap, singing and happy but not making much sense (sensory issues from all the stimuli in the mall and anxiety caused an odd behavior) but he smiled for his photo and all was well.

I think a hidden, but very obvious sign that our son had autism could be found in Lincolns video taped visit with Santa at age two. It goes like this:

‘panning of Santa workshop, lots of cute, rosy cheeked, sparkly eyed toddlers and children. Lincoln 2 and  Grayson 6 months waiting fairly patiently in line, Dad holding both firmly. Lincoln hops on Santas knee for a second, shift off then…about 5 minutes of filming the mall floor as a surprised and winded Mom chases her 2 year old down the mall in a swarm of holiday shoppers.

Why? Who the heck knows!

Running proved to be a strong trait in our Autism, one that at 1 month and half from his 7th birthday Lincoln is just beginning to out grow.

Looking back it is such a typical response from him…remembering, I just didn’t get why he would take off like that. And running from Santa!!

Try supporting the enjoyed traditions, not worrying about the ones he does not like or enjoy.

Thankfully Christmas holds a plethora of tradition in our family. There are some our child does not understand, enjoy or find overwhelming (maybe due to sensory issues maybe it is scary) My best advice is pick your battles. Embrace the things your child enjoys and don’t push the others. As your child matures he or she may be able to enjoy more but as small children don’t force them.

Personally, I feel that Christmas can be enjoyed in many ways. Having your family and loved ones close is really all anyone needs.

Hugs your kids and love life.

If Christmas is only understood and accepted to be Santa, reindeers and gingerbread houses…so be it. There is lots of time to explain baby Jesus and the nativity story.

If they get hooked on gifts, well…I know it seems wrong, but there is enjoyment in seeing your child truly excited in something AND sharing that with other children. The sad side of autism is often our child find great difficulty in feeling like they ‘belong’  or are ‘the same’ as others.

Perhaps showing them that the gift of ‘giving’ might help understanding the gift God gave to the world.

Candycanes, cookies, sugar plums, toy soldiers, nut crackers…they might not truly be the meaning of Christmas but they certainly do make our hearts smile. Surely, that must be enough 🙂

Now, at 6, our son is conversational with adults and is interested in what Santa has to say.

I feel very confident that this years visit will go well without any need to strictly assist with photo.

Happiest of Holidays Families of Autism!! Enjoy the beauty of the season.

Best to you in 2012!

A

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