In Britain, the best-selling festive single is Band Aid’s 1984 track “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which sold 3.5million copies. This was one of the Christmas songs Matthew was playing loudly via YouTube at 0630 this morning. He decided to play these songs after asking for what felt like the 22nd time if he could open the next window on his advent calendar. I am sure the choice of song was purely coincidental, but given that Matthew seems to have inherited my cruel sense of humour I’m not so sure.
Thanks for the reminder, Sir Bob. My wife and I are well aware it is Christmas. In fact, we’ve known it’s been coming for the last three months, the day after Matthew’s 8th Birthday to be precise. The wrapping paper from his birthday gifts were still covering the lounge floor when Matthew first said the “C” word (I mean Christmas, you wicked reader!)
Please don’t get me wrong, all of us in Team Rouse love Christmas. Like most families we find it a busy time of year, but as parents to two autistic children we find it can be particularly stressful. I am sure some of you reading this feel the same way.
Christmas is often seen as a period of over-indulgence; lots of lights, colour, noise, festivities, spending time with family and the giving and receiving of gifts. All of those things can mean only one thing to somebody on the autistic spectrum, and it’s one of the things they dislike the most – Change.
In this blog had planned to give you some “advice” on how to deal with Christmas. However, having read through what I was going to publish it struck me that what I suggest may not work for everybody. It was actually a conversation I had with the wife, and other people, that made me think and made me think that there no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach.
One conversation in particular stuck in my mind. In this particular conversation I was being offered advise as to what that person thought would help with Matthew and David. I do understand the parents with “Neuro – typical” children may not have the first had experience that us ASD parents have when dealing with behavioural issues, but their advise sounded like they we trying to shoe-horn a “neuro-typical” solution into a ASD shaped problem. A square peg into a round hole, as it were.
As any parent to an ASD child will tell you this does not always work out too well. During this conversation I used the phrase “our parenting methods may not be seen as ‘conventional’, but we are not a conventional family”. I know. I can’t believe I said that either but that is actually the real message in today’s blog.
Please don’t miss-understand me, Petra and I always listen to and appreciate advise that is given to us. We have also learned not to take any comment as a personal slight at our parenting skills, as the people giving the advice are just trying to help. As I discussed in my previous blog, we all need help from time to time.
However, never be afraid to trust you instincts when it comes to your child. What can be seen as fun for most children may not be particularly enjoyable for yours, especially in this festive period.
In short, don’t think you are acting like a Grinch if you think something will upset your child.
If your kid doesn’t want to see “Father Christmas” in his grotto don’t make them. To be honest a big bloke in a red suit and a fake beard would scare me too. If you think your child will freak out at Christmas decorations don’t use them. If you go to a Christmas event and they are finding the sensory input too much don’t worry about leaving early. If the idea of taking you child to a panto seems like the worst idea in the world because you know they just won’t enjoy it doesn’t take them. Use your judgement and you’ll be okay.
I know I’ve been rabbiting on a bit more than I normally do in these blogs, so I’ll stop here. If you want some tips about how to deal with Christmas you can find some good ones at http://www.autism.org.uk/christmas.
I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice. Whatever the challenges, make sure you enjoy making memories with your family. When it’s all said and done, that’s what Christmas is all about.