We all know how the song goes. I bet you could hear Noddy’s voice when you read the title of this blog. It’s almost as if Noddy is trying to remind us that Christmas is actually fun.
I won’t lie, Me and Petra are shattered. I am sorry that I haven’t been able to write a blog for the last little while but the last two weeks have been a blur of shopping, wrapping, school nativity plays, Christmas fairs and staff parties. I am pretty sure that you have had the same problem.
Like any children this time of year David and Matthew have been on ultra high Christmas alert. There has been lots of broken sleep and anxiety caused by the change in their daily routine. Add onto this the sudden increase in sensory input caused by all the lights and sparkle it has been a tough couple of weeks for them. The little…. Cherubs.
However, despite the stress, the lead up to the big day has been it has also has been fun (I can feel Petra staring daggers at me).
In my last blog I pointed out that Christmas is about making memories. We are so lucky that we have been able to make a few ourselves as family. They may seem small to some families who have “Neuro typical” children but to us they we real breakthrough moments.
David took part in his first Christmas show a few weeks ago. Not only did our normally shy boy sing all the songs, he sang them with Gusto and remembered all of the actions to a bunch of strangers. A very big moment for David which resulted in two very proud parents.
In the past trips to take Matthew to see Santa been hell. They have ended in either an awkward silence in the grotto or with Petra and I dragging a screaming child past disapproving and concerned parents. This year we have been to see a Santa (I just mistyped that as Satan…..) three times this year and there has been no meltdown. In fact, we couldn’t shut Matthew up as he decided that the poor bloke in the fake white beard needed to know all about Pokémon and Skylanders. In great detail. For 10 minutes each time.
As we hurtle towards the big day there is one thing that fills us with dread. No, it’s not Sprouts or the visit from that drunken relative. It’s that one thing that most people need not worry about but keeps parents of children on the spectrum awake at night.
Christmas Social Etiquette.
If you think about it, there is a perceived way to behave at Christmas (no, it does not involve being drunk by 10am). This can create a problem for children who are on the Autistic Spectrum, as they find social interaction difficult and therefore don’t often understand what is perceived as “the proper way to behave”.
I’ll give you an example. Like many families, Team Rouse has 3 or 4 “Christmas Days” so that we can accommodate our families. Last week it was Christmas Day number 1 with Petra’s Dad. He asked questions and made statements that made him sound like he is being an ungrateful little boy, but in fact were asked purely out of Innocence. They were:
“Is that it?”
“How much was is it?”
“David’s present is bigger than mine.”
And the one both Petra and I dread:
“I’ve already got that”
Now, I’m guessing a fair few of the fellow parents of SEN children who are reading this winced when they read that. It felt like a familiar pain, didn’t it? A bit like when us blokes see a fellow man fall victim to a blow to THAT area on “You’ve been framed”.
We know that Matthew’s brain works on logic and fact rather than tact and diplomacy. In Matthew’s head the thought process behind those statements and questions probably went something like this:
“Should I wait for other presents first or can I play with the ones I already have”
“I wonder how much money they spent on me. I know, I’ll ask as I love a fact”
“Wow, David’s presents all look bigger than mine. Especially that cool looking train set. Perhaps I’ll tell Grandpa that.”
“I’ve already got one of those. I should tell them, as they would really want to know”
In my very first blog I described how children on the spectrum often suffer from sensory processing disorder. This is where their cognitive system can overload when it gets to much input. According to Wikipedia “Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”
Try to imagine a typical city center on an average day in the summer. It is busy, but not too congested. It can be a nice place in which to wonder around.
Now think of it in December. It is full of music, lights, smells and Christmas shoppers darting around trying to get those last minute presents. The city center as now jam packed, full of bustle and not a very pleasant place to be. This is probably how a child on the spectrum can find Christmas. Sometimes it can be a bit too much.
Blimey. This is turning into a bit of a fable, rather than a blog. I’m near the end, I promise!
I guess the point to the blog (there is one) is to try and remember that children on the spectrum are not rude and unappreciative. If you give a gift to a child on the spectrum, or are the parent of the child that has received a gift, try to remember that what may sound negative may just be their attempt to articulate what they are thinking and feeling.
Finally, a message to my wonderful friends and family. Team Rouse would be lost without you and your support. As Mariah Carey once sung “All we want for Christmas is you”.
Matthew would also like some Skylanders. Have a great Christmas all.