Even if the transition in to Christmas has gone smoothly, Christmas time itself can be full of stress, and present autistic people and their families with all kinds of worries and issues. Below are a few ways in which these can be overcome in order that everybody can get the most out of Christmas time.
- Don’t force Christmas on people with autism – if the individual with autism doesn’t feel able to go out and spend time with extended family and friends, then they shouldn`t be forced to. If you are religious then Christmas is a spiritual time, and you should be able to experience this in a way that is important to you. And if you are atheist then Christmas is more about having fun, and everybody does this in their own way.
- Don’t make things any more difficult than they have to be – If you are a parent there is no point in trying to make your child sit with you to eat Christmas dinner if they don’t want to for some reason. If somebody with autism doesn’t like the idea of eating all that new food because of their sensory issues then they shouldn’t have to. Let them stick to their usual food. Trying to keep things as normal as possible can help someone with autism.
- Some children don’t even like opening presents on Christmas morning – They`d rather get them gradually spread out over the month so it is less of an overload for them. There is no set way that Christmas has to be, and taking somebody`s autism in to account doesn’t mean that you are letting it dictate everyone`s Christmas – it just means you are doing what you need to do to get the most fun from it – and the other members of the family can enjoy Christmas however they like.
- Lastly I would say to the autistic person to be selfish – there is no point trying to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, and that you know will cause you more stress. The important thing is to try to enjoy yourself and have fun. It might seem like this is difficult with autism, but if you take it in to account and try to work around the issues it raises, then it is doable
In conclusion, there are a lot of things that both the family, and autistic people themselves can do to make sure Christmas is still an enjoyable part of the year. It is certainly not a festival whose traditions are particularly accommodating of autism, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be a morbid time of year. Autistic people can enjoy Christmas just as much as everyone else, they just need to put a bit more thought in to it than most.
Unfortunately I don’t have space in article format to give full details of the TRANSITION TECHNIQUES created by my Mum and me. All the techniques that I have used in coping with transitions are dealt with in my book http://www.jkp.com/helping-children-with-autism-spectrum-conditions-through-everyday-transitions.html It is not possible to say that every technique will be affective for every person, as that isn’t how autism works. But they have helped me a great deal over the years, and continue to do so J Paddy-Joe