Last week, I was sat with one of my all time favourite Special Mums slurping frothy coffee
(Can I say that? Can I divulge to the world that she is one of my favourites or can I not show favouritism amongst my Mum friends? But I've said it now so I will leave it in)
Anyway, so it was a freezing, icy cold day and we were sat in a nice warm coffee shop with our hands wrapped around our mugs warming our hands.
We were talking about Christmas and of course our children.
My friend suggested that I write a post about how we celebrate Christmas as she knows we do some things differently than most families.
I agreed that it was a great idea so here it is :)
First of all, I have to say how I love Christmas! :)
As a woman in her mid-thirties, I am still very much a child when it comes to Christmas! :)
Now DS likes Christmas but only of it's done the right way for him.
It took me a few years to get the balance just right for him, with a few slightly mis-judged errors along the way but now we have it spot on :) *yay*!
My feeling on Christmas is that it can be such a magical time of the year.
I believe it can still be magical for DS (and me!) with just a few little tweaks here and there.
When DS is happy, calm and relaxed then I am happy, calm and relaxed so it's great investment to get these tweaks in :) *High fives all round*
Okay folks so this is what Christmas looks like in our house.
Here we go...
* Less is More....I think we've all seen the pictures on our Instagram feeds of the giddy parents posting pictures of their cherubs waiting Christmas presents. It resembles a medium sized mountain in their living room and will take the kid to around the 5th January to open if they start opening very early on Christmas morning!
This would just be far too overwhelming for DS for a start!
DS recieves just a handful of gifts. And no, this isn't because I am a Scrooge!
DS needs to process each present individually, the least amount of presents, the less he needs to process. This means less stress for him and he only needs a short amount of time to do it as opposed to a whopper of a pile which will take him much longer to process and stress him out.
Santa tends to bring DS a main present and a couple of smaller ones that he knows he will just love and get lots of sensory stimulation from! Oh yes Santa knows what he's doing here ;)
*Take a Picture...This is what I noticed. On Christmas mornings when a sleepy DS would stir and wake, I would whisper to him that Father Christmas has been and left him presents.
DS would seem a bit alarmed. He would slowly get out of bed, creep to he living room doorway, have a quick peek at his presents and then run back to bed.
Only after about 10 minuites would he then again get out of bed, make his way to the living room and start opening his gifts.
I realised that what DS must be doing is processing the 'scene' before he opened his presents.
Christmas Day is certainly a day from the norm so he just needed some time and space to process and work through it all in his mind.
I thought of what I could do to help him with this and decided on taking a picture of his presents in the room exactly how he would find them in the morning. I knew the picture would need to be exact.
I would then print it out and leave it next to him in bed.
So in the morning, DS would wake up to the picture of what the living room looks like allowing him to process the image in his own time before getting out of bed to open them.
This has been in place for a few years now and works well.
I find that having the picture takes away that anxiety of what to expect.
I also do exactly the same thing for his birthdays too :)
*Christmas Tree...For a long time now, I always put up the Christmas tree and decorations whilst DS is present.
This means he sees the tree and decorations going up in stages and again allows him that time to process each stage.
I decorate the tree slowly on purpose for DS which I have found helps.
He even lends a hand too :)
Decorations are kept to a minimum and I always keep the bedrooms decoration/Christmas free so he has a calm room to escape to if needs be.
I knew one family that use to put the Christmas tree up in stages. One day they would just put the tree in the corner and leave it. Then a few days later they would put lights on it followed by baubles a few days later again. They kept to this pattern until it was complete.
It worked for their young man, he was happy and they were happy :)
*Batteries...To save lots of time and lots of frustration (I am referring to the parent/carer just as much as the person with autism here!) I check what batteries toys need.
Before I wrap presents, I always ensure two things are ticked off each item.
1) That the correct batteries are in and checked that the toys works wether it lights up, moves, spins or makes a noise - that bad boy is not wrapped until I've seen it do it's thing with my own eyes! :)
2) I untie the million cable ties and unscrew those mega annoying mini screws that hold stuff into the box.
They always take an age to do and I know DS would get pretty frustrated if he was mega excited to play with a toy but had to wait for what felt like an eternity until I had got the thing free!
*Playing it Cool & Calm...Christmas at one time was a great huge family reunion!
We would all get together on Christmas Day to eat, drink, sing and be merry - it was ace! :)
I lived in a small terraced town house then and how we would all cram in and actually fit in it I don't know but we did and we had a great laugh.
My Mum would cook the dinner for something like 15/16 of us in my then teeny tiny kitchen, it was superb!
DS would seriously struggle with that set-up today. He loves his family members dearly but would struggle to cope with that amount of people at one time.
So we keep it cool and calm for him being careful not to overwhelm.
DS does see and visit family but only a few at a time.
Just recently, I have been challenging him a little bit more socially with careful calculations of course.
I would never throw DS into a situation that I thought he couldn't handle but ones that I think he would be okay with then I've tried them.
Most of the time my little risk assessment has paid off and it's gone well, other times it hasn't so I've kicked started my Back-up plan (I always have a Plan B to everything!)
So as we do Christmas a little bit differently now that doesn't mean it's any less enjoyable or magical at all!
I still love it and what's more important to me is that DS enjoys it too.
I think Christmas is definitely not a 'one size fits all'.
It should be celebrated in anyway you like or see fit for you and your family as I am a huge believer in happy children means happy parents and happy parents means happy children :)
So that note, I am going to end it there and just in case I don't manage to pull up another post before Christmas, I wish you and your family and Merry Christmas! :) :)
Love Amanda xx