I'm almost done all my preparations. Just a few more presents to wrap.
I've mentioned before that the holidays are tricky for families with autism. The schedule disruption and new experiences can wreak havoc on an autistic child. It can also feel isolating when your child doesn't "get" the holidays.
I thought I'd take the time to share some of the traditions I do with my family, even if they don't always get it.
I decorate the house the first weekend in December. This starts the cue-ing process that something special is going to happen. It also means that the decorations are familiar by the time we get to the actual holiday events. On the downside, I end up replacing a lot of damaged and destroyed decorations ... but I mostly use that as an excuse to shop.
We have a candy cane advent calendar. 24 candy canes in a cup and we put one on the tree each night. Since Alex can't tolerate solid food, the chocolate calendars are out and we haven't had good luck with the toy ones.
I put up the kids' Christmas crafts on the walls around the house. Nathan is excited to see his work and I've seen Alex taking note. I'm hoping they get the message that I'm proud of them and what they do.
I keep Christmas Eve as a quiet day. There are a lot of activities coming up and I keep the 24th as downtime, even though there's sometimes pressure to fit something in.
I read my boys the poem Twas The Night Before Christmas each Christmas Eve. We cuddle up on the couch and I read it to them just like my father read it to me each year.
We only attend family events in familiar venues. We've learned the hard way that unfamiliar places are full of unfamiliar hazards, which means we spend a lot of time running around after the boys telling them they can't do things. Not a fun holiday experience. Because the hosts are familiar with the boys and the boys are familiar with their homes, it lets everyone relax a bit. It also takes one more element of newness out of the equation.
Santa writes a letter to my boys every year. He compliments them on what they've done in the year and tells them a story about life at the North Pole. They haven't always been interested but I'm glad I kept up the tradition.
It's a good system which has worked for our family for the last few years. I've had people tell me I shouldn't bother because my children wouldn't understand or care. I don't think that's true. Even if they don't respond in a typical way, I think our family traditions mark out this time of year as special and noteworthy in their minds. And that's what traditions are for.
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