Most people know the ending to Tis the season to be…..Jolly fa la la la while it’s true most everyone finds this time of the year somewhat stressful….it can be way more stressful for families with autistic members. We all love to go to the mall and see the decorations and Santa etc, as a family event! But for kids with autism this can be a real sensory overload…I have had people say well just leave that child home…that’s easier said than done. Many times finding a babysitter for an autistic child isn’t easy, and many times parents are single parent where the other parent can’t take care of or won’t take care of them. I was very lucky Peyton’s siblings were all quite a bit older,so they would stay behind and take care of him, they were past the age of Santa……Sometimes we all would go and one of them, usually my daughter, would find a “quiet space” that she could go with him at the mall, if he was stressed. I am not sure how I would have been able to go to the mall or any store during this hectic time of the year, if not for my older kids. Again, I know I was lucky…that’s one of the reasons for this blog and its topic…if you have a family member, friend etc… Who has an autistic child…please reach out and see how you help make this season easier, maybe it’s offering to sit for them for a few hours….maybe it’s getting their list and offering to shop for them, take their other children to see Santa, take their kids shopping…you get the idea!
Truth is the mall, shopping, Santa and more are some of the least stressing as there are solutions, not always easy ones, but online shopping or the above mentioned ones. There are many other issues…I am going to touch on a few and offer a few helpful solutions: Many families deal with food allergies and that can be an issue when going to others homes for meals, events etc….not everyone is willing to change their menu for one child…so if someone calls and asks for a few special dishes PLEASE be understanding!
Some kids have real issues with all the lights, sounds and smells of the season as well. I know when Peyton was younger he really had issues with smells. Please try to understand that while we may enjoy all these, they may be trigger points for others. If you go to someone’s home and all they have on their tree is a few ornaments and bows, and no other decorations don’t assume they didn’t want to decorate the tree, aren’t very festive……instead compliment the tree….it honestly does make a difference! I had a friend whose son would grab trees and eat the needles…she was afraid to take him anywhere as he would grab the tree branches. He would even try to eat artificial trees because he couldn’t tell the difference…he was 12.. People noticed and made comments and faces….it was very hurtful for her. Hugs, kisses and other “family traditions” can be very stressful for many as well. Please ask the parents first, it can avoid a meltdown.
I have only touched on a few of the issues many of us live through. My hope for this season is that if you have family, friends, neighbors etc…. That have an autistic family member that you show them kindness,compassion and understanding this season. Talk with the parents and see if you can support them in any way. Sometimes just showing someone you care and understand is all the difference in the world. Next time you hear the lyrics…Tis the season to be…my hope is you finish it off with…..kind, caring and compassionate!