It’s that time of year again where most people start bouncing off the walls with excitement. We just had Halloween and now most people are getting their Thanksgiving plans in place. In fact, once Thanksgiving is here, it is officially that time of the year where everyone is thinking about the holidays and finding just that perfect gift for their loved ones. Before you know it, you are invited to not only your office holiday party, but your neighbor’s party, your side of the family’s party, your spouse’s side of the family’s party, and the list goes on and on. The average family thrives on all the joy and excitement that this time of the year brings. However, to many families, it simply brings nothing but more stress, anxiety and heartache.
To my family, the holidays are a very stressful time. It is a guarantee that, if we do attend a holiday party, we will be paying for it that night or even the next day. The extra stimulation is just simply too much for Trenton and can send him into sensory overload. That, of course, happens if Trenton even lets us step foot into the holiday party. Most of the time he goes into a meltdown just entering in an unfamiliar place and, before we know it, Trenton’s tears, screams and body slamming starts immediately.
It goes without saying that, if we do have the privilege of staying at a holiday party for a little bit, it is anything but enjoyable. I spend my whole time chasing Trenton around the party, making sure he isn’t going to break something. I am on his heels picking up the destruction that a child with severe autism can make in a matter of seconds, while everyone’s eyes are on me, staring at us in utter amazement.
Truth be told, it is just so much easier to turn down every holiday invitation. However, when I say we won’t be able to make it, I often get a confused look and I’m asked why. Now, how in the world do you explain to people who do not live with autism why you can’t make it?
As you can see, the stress never goes away! I have yet to decide which way is the easiest.
Next comes the question, “What would Trenton like this year?” Honestly, I have no idea! He is a five-year-old boy that is nowhere close to playing with appropriate toys. In fact, he doesn’t even play with toys. All he does is walk and pace around the house and occasionally play with one of his stuffed animals or animal figures. As his mother, I have no idea what to get him let alone what to tell everyone else to get him. Sadly, there is no guarantee that, after everyone spends money on him, he will even play with the toy. He may unwrap the present or he may unwrap it a week or two later. If he does unwrap a gift, it is often followed by disappointment on the giver’s face because he unwrapped their gift but tossed it to the side like a piece of trash. Deep down he may really like the gift but it’s just not what he wants at that moment. Getting others to understand that is a hard one.
Let’s not forget that during the busy holiday season we often have to deal with schedule changes. Schools and therapies are closed more to give their employees time off. We all know that schedule change and getting out of a normal routine can be brutal to many individuals with autism.
This time of the year can make us sad and jealous. I often get sad hearing about everyone’s big holiday plans and holiday traditions. I hate to admit it, but I get a little jealous too! Oh, how I long to have a wonderful fun-filled holiday tradition. How can we not get sad and jealous when the picture-perfect holiday times are all around us? I have not yet seen a holiday movie with the struggles an autism family goes through. As a matter of fact, almost every holiday movie is about the perfect ending for the holiday season.
The list of the stress that the holidays brings to families with autism could go on and on. If you’re like me, you can breathe a little better come January 2nd every year. Even though it’s hard and a very rough time, I take comfort in knowing that I am not the only mom or family going through the stress of the holidays with severe autism.
To my fellow autism families, hang in there this holiday season. We will get through it, like always.
Angela and her family reside in Terre Haute, Indiana, where they moved to get more help for her son with severe autism. She was born and raised in a small town in southern Illinois where her love for animals and helping others blossomed.
She enjoys sharing the honest and real side of autism through her writing. Her writing may not apply to every family with a child with autism, but it is sure to apply to the families raising children on the severe end of the spectrum.