I don’t often talk about my son on this blog, particularly in negative terms, as I am respectful of his need to navigate his teen years away from social media. However, this Christmas has been so successful that I think it’s worth sharing some of the amazing progress he has made.
For many years Christmas was not an easy time for us. The change in routine and all the sensory stuff of the festive season was too much for my son who would often end up totally overwhelmed by it all. We did everything we could to make Christmas doable for him and also our other children (as well as managing the expectations of others) but it was hard meeting everyone’s needs. Often we found ourselves prioritising our son’s needs above everyone else which sounds unfair to our other children but our thinking was that if we made Christmas easier for him then it meant Christmas was more enjoyable for everyone else. There is nothing worse than Christmas being blighted by meltdowns. This isn’t a Christmas for anyone as meltdowns need not end as quickly as they begin; they can take days to recover from.
And so we set to create an autism-friendly Christmas, well as autism friendly as possible. We reduced the number of presents, involved our son in choosing his present, kept socialising to a minimum (or not at all) and kept to a strict ‘home-based’ routine. It wasn’t easy. Difficult behaviour continued and sometimes we wondered if life would ever get better but with persistence and dedication from us we are now witnessing a turnaround. Except for school (another subject for another day) he is coping so much better with the festive season that he now “loves Christmas” and the family traditions we have set up. In fact such has been the transformation in him that he has even been able to cope with a trip to the big city to see the German Market. This was unthinkable even a couple of years ago but now, with our support, he can walk through a busy market and cope with the multitude of sights, sounds and smells. I am immensely proud.
His progress doesn’t end there though because this Christmas for the first time in many years we have had family over for Christmas day. I had always shied away from entertaining at Christmas because my son could never cope but now he can sit at the table with other people and enjoy his Christmas lunch. As well as that he has joined in with a few of our family games and laughed at Mrs Brown’s Boys (particularly her bucking bronco in the Christmas tree, an absolutely hilarious sketch). A few years ago I could never have imagined my son even being able to sit still to watch the television yet alone laugh at a comedy.
Of course I am not so naive to expect that we’ve ‘got there’ and that there won’t be challenging times ahead. With the uncertainty of post 16 and what will happen in early adulthood I am naturally anxious for the future but for now I’m going to enjoy the good times while they last.