Our household understands autism all too well. All 3 of our little ones are on the spectrum at varying levels. I am on the Asperger’s level myself.
The Christmas season brings special circumstances that most families without children on the autism spectrum wouldn’t give a remote thought about. The world around us it lit up with beautiful lights, songs, crowds in all the stores, people ringing the Salvation Army bells, and there’s lots of noise and movement, more than usual. Most children and adults are just fine and handle all the noise and movement and visual changes well.
Not our kids. Or me.
Mr. Michael, who has Asperger’s and severe ADHD, really has the worst time adjusting. It’s not that he doesn’t try. He loves the lights, loves driving around at night looking at all the pretty lights on houses, the lights on the downtown businesses, and the lit up inflatables rotating Santa Claus and merry-go-rounds and snowmen and the like. He even handles some of the music changes. He loves “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” that his class sings in school. He doesn’t fully understand why he can’t sing about Jesus at school, but in time he may understand.
What gets Mr. Michael going in the wrong direction is the noise. So much busy noise about, people going here and there, with bells ringing and tinkling, horns honking with annoyed and road raged drivers behind the wheel, etc. The constant movement around him sets him off as well. A simple trip to the grocery store for an item or two turns into a very overstimulating experience with tons of shoppers stocking up for Christmas dinners and snacks and so on. Simply going to the Walmart to get a couple of items turns into a sensory overload of electronics and noise and signs all over and and and…well…you get the picture. Then throw in how the time has just changed to where it gets dark around 5pm. And cold.
Mr. Kevin loves all the colors and lights and busy busy time around Christmas. He has a simple love of everything Christmas. He believes in Santa (even though we’ve taught him about Jesus and His birthday, his biological dad absolutely must teach him about the big red fat guy). He will get up in the middle of the night and open presents and then try to rewrap them (and getting a peek into his presents) so we can’t tell they’ve been opened. He gets up at 4am. Daily. And goes to bed at 5:30 to 6pm. Daily. On his own. Trying to keep the child awake is like trying to stop a speeding train with a feather…it’s not going to happen.
Miss Jess handles things rather well. She is the closest we have to neurotypical. She just shows more of her ADHD and stays hyper. She loves all the things that drive Mr. Michael nuts. Actually, Mr. Kevin does too. She loves the noise, the lights, the bright colors, the hustle and bustle.
Me, I would hole up in the house and stay there til Spring if I could. I am not a fan of winter. I don’t like the whole noise and busy atmosphere and chaos of the Christmas season. I don’t like driving and having overzealous folks in their vehicles act like they lost their brain somewhere along side the road. I could live without the pressure to buy more, spend more.
How does our family get through this chaotic time of the year?
We put focus on where it belongs. On Jesus Christ. It’s not Santa Claus and pretty lights and tons of wrapped up presents that makes Christmas..well…Christmas. It’s Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior!
Honestly, I’ve found that there is one simple way to handle the effects holidays have with autism. Pray. Pray for a hedge (or wall or moat or whatever you want) of protection around your family, yourself, your house. Pray to keep Satan bound away from you and your family. Ask the Lord to give your children (and yourself and spouse) a clear vision of what He wants, and a clear view of how to go about each day and activity. Pray for the children to truly understand amidst the hustle and bustle what Christmas really is about. Ask God for peace during the storms. He keeps His promises and He says He will give you peace. He also says “Fear Not” 365 times throughout Scripture. I’d take a few of those and hold on tight to them throughout holiday times.
Fear not that your Aspie/Autie will freak out in the middle of a store.
Fear not that your outside family will try to tell you how to handle your child when he/she has a meltdown over something incidental.
Fear not that complete strangers will look at you like you have multiple heads if you don’t just join in the chaos.
Fear not, for the Lord is near.
Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust in the Lord with all thine heart. Lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He’ll direct your paths (paraphrased from the KJV). Trust the Lord to get you through the holidays. He created the day, He will get you through them! He also created your children….He will help you with each hill and valley, each meltdown, each physical act, each misunderstanding. And He’ll be there for the joys as well!