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Merry Christmas!

  • Posted on December 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Our Christmas celebration is a three-fold event.

It starts with the “Cristmas party,” during which Mark and I bring the boys and, usually, my Mom to the Crist family Christmas party. Over the years this event has been transformed to better meet the needs of the boys. It used to happen in a restaurant or another barely-tolerable venue with too much stimuli and too many avenues for escape. Since then, it has been held either in a family home or in a hotel conference room. This year the conference room had a big screen TV. There was no input to display, but Alex still enjoyed jumping to the image of his own shadowy reflection. Both Alex and Willy got birthday presents, as well as Christmas presents, which makes it especially fun for them. Unfortunately, Ben was sick, which became apparent after the party was over (at least, it was over for us). Luckily, we were outside at the time. The real blessing, though, was that Brandon was able to come with us. (Prayers for him would be appreciated as he stares high school graduation in the face without a plan for what happens next.)

Tonight, we’ll celebrate Christmas Eve with a “Christmas dinner” over at my Mom’s house. Afterwards, we’ll exchange presents. This is a smaller, quieter affair where the noisiest things in the house are definitely my boys. Unfortunately, it looks like Brandon will be working that day.

Finally, there’s Christmas morning. This time it’s just us in our own home. The boys get their presents, even if I have to stay up all night wrapping them and setting up our little fake tree. Sadly, the white one with the LED lights at the tips has gone missing, so this year we’ll have a fake fir and whatever ornaments and candy canes I might happen to have on hand.

I guess my point is that I would like to wish you all a merry Christmas and urge you to make your Christmas/holiday celebration(s) autism-friendly affairs your whole family can really enjoy. All it takes is a little accommodation! Merry Christmas!

Holiday Hiatus

  • Posted on December 24, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Merry Christmas to all,
To all I wish good cheer;
Peace, love, hope, and faith,
To carry through ‘til next year!

Christmas: A Series of Adjustments

  • Posted on December 27, 2010 at 3:19 PM

When our boys were diagnosed with autism, Mark and I braced ourselves for a lot of adjustments.  We needed to adjust the ways we addressed our boys’ behavioral problems.  We needed to adjust the ways we thought about these behaviors (challenges vs. problems, for example).  We needed to adjust the ways we thought about their futures and our future.  And we needed to adjust to our present, even as it changed on a daily basis or as it seemed not to change.

Holidays have required different adjustments.  In a way, our ability to cope with these recurring events has been less than I’d like.  Part of it is that they only occur once a year, so we don’t get as much practice as we get with some of the other things.  Part of it is that much of our lives revolve around coping.  Holidays require extra energy and extra effort.  Often, I just don’t have the “extra” to spare.  And part of it is that our boys are thrown off by these events, just as we are, perhaps more than we are, and so the cues I usually rely on get skewed.

This Christmas was no different, and yet it was different.  This Christmas we adjusted a little closer to what our boys needed.  But, we still haven’t figured out how to get that merry Christmas spirit pulsing through our lives.

On top of the usual festive difficulties, Ben was sick and so he wasn’t quite up to joining in the reindeer games…or much of anything else.

One adjustment we made somewhat successfully this year was the lack of a Christmas feast.  My boys don’t feast.  We’ve tried adding special things—their usual fare—just for them, but they still won’t be lured to the table.  Willy will sit down and try one or two things, just like he will for a regular meal, but he won’t feast.  It makes for a somber, disappointing mood, so I just didn’t do it.  Sure, we baked a ham—yummy stuff.  But, we didn’t make a bunch of fixings or make a big deal out of it.

Of course, when we went down to Illinois to celebrate Christmas with the extended family, Alex went on something of a hunger strike.  (Ben stayed at home with my mom—too sick to go.)  Alex didn’t eat dinner.  He ate (I think) his cold grilled cheese sandwich (from dinner) for breakfast, but refused all the breakfast foods.  And, during the Christmas party (lunch), he only ate sugar cookies.  It’s not that he wasn’t hungry, but he was so out of sorts he wasn’t willing to try much.  Even things he liked in other settings.  And we really don’t know how to make that better for him.

Another adjustment we made was not to make the big rush to Christmas morning.  The anticipation of morning presents affects Willy, but only when the morning comes.  None of our kids wake up early in anticipation.  None of them want to be woken up just because one of their brothers is up and ready for presents (almost always Willy).  And this year, Ben didn’t even want to open his presents.

So, it feels like Christmas is lacking something in our house.  Mark and I lack the energy to make a big deal out of it.  Our boys lack the interest to make a big deal out of it.  And so, while Christmas was held, Christmas was not celebrated by my family.  And, once again—like holiday after holiday, year after year before—it feels like something was missing.  And we still don’t know how to adjust to fill in the missing pieces.