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Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Posted on November 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Raising three children with autism can be quite challenging. Celebrating holidays with three children with autism—or even just one!—can be especially challenging. Over the years, our extended family has grown accustomed to the differences my children’s needs bring to the holiday season. Our family has adapted excellently and I know just how lucky we are for their support and accommodations.

Many families are not so lucky. Many families struggle with basic necessities and holidays can be especially trying. On the one hand, the expectation is that they must somehow access the mainstay traditions of the season, such as a turkey for Thanksgiving, whether their budgets allow it or not. I’ve been there and I know how trying and miserable that can be. On the other hand, parents can go through all the work to procure the ingredients and make the feast, only to find that their child(ren) with autism won’t touch the holiday meal. Instead, they want something that’s more familiar and comfortable. I’ve been there, too.

When spending the holidays with extended family, these complications can be further exacerbated. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can do their best to love the children with disabilities in their family, but if they don’t understand the disability the child has and they don’t understand what the child needs to celebrate the holiday, it can spoil the event for everybody. I’ve been there, too; though, once again, I’m lucky to have an extended family that’s very understanding and accommodating, but it has taken work on all our parts to get there. It is important for everybody to understand and keep in mind that it is not the disability, per se, that spoils a family event; it is the lack of understanding and accommodation that makes the event unsuccessful. That seems to happen in families a lot, and the issue isn’t always a matter of disability, but I’ve found that if people are willing to put in the work to love, understand, and accept one another, then any event can be a success, whether you have little or much.

So, I want to express my gratitude that Willy will be joining my mom, my husband, and me for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And I want to express my gratitude that Alex and Ben will be able to enjoy the special family time of Thanksgiving without having to try any of the traditional foods. I’m thankful we have the choice and flexibility to ensure that our whole family can enjoy this holiday. And I’m especially thankful for the many holidays we have shared with our understanding and accommodating extended family.

Thank you all!

Thanksgiving

  • Posted on November 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

If you live in the U.S. and you’re lucky, then today you’ll be sitting down to a feast of turkey (or ham) and fixings with your family and/or friends. We do this to honor the early survival of the settlers who, with the help of Native Americans, were able to survive in the new and strange land that has since become our home.

Now I’m asking you to take a moment to reflect and realize that everyone isn’t so lucky. Some people will be working through Thanksgiving. Others are alone in hospital beds or nursing facilities, which may or may not make the effort to bring some holiday cheer to their patients who can’t go home. Others aren’t celebrating, because they can’t afford groceries, let alone a feast. Some of them don’t even have a place to live. Some are just alone and find it difficult to celebrate without loved ones to share their lives with.

I’m thankful this Thanksgiving, because my family gets to be among the lucky ones. We will be celebrating in my mom’s not-so-new home with a table full (but not overly full) of Thanksgiving fixings, with some more ordinary offerings for those of us with limited eating habits. We will be together and thinking about those who can’t be with us, but who will have their own Thanksgiving events.

We will also be thinking about those who have to do without and hoping that they get the helping hand they need to lift their spirits and their prospects. We will be thinking about all the people who’ve sacrificed to make this country possible, especially those who rarely get the credit they deserve. And we’ll be thinking about what could be done throughout this country to make its citizens truly thankful.

I hope yours is a happy, thankful, thoughtful Thanksgiving!