For a lot of youngsters Christmas is essentially the most thrilling time of the yr, however for these with autism – and for the households who take care of them – it may be a very difficult interval.
Among the easiest joys related to Christmas, akin to opening presents or consuming turkey, can turn into potential flashpoints as youngsters who place big significance on their routines discover it arduous to deal with the change to their surroundings.
So how do households with autistic youngsters make it by way of the festive season with happiness and concord?
For Kevin Harrison, it’s a time of yr to be dealt with cautiously as his 11-year-old son Daniel struggles with the challenges of Christmas.
“Folks begin visiting, there’s promoting in every single place and he cannot actually perceive or make numerous sense of it,” Mr Harrison says.
“The lounge seems to be completely different, the kitchen seems to be completely different, there are playing cards in every single place, and he positively begins to behave in another way character-wise. He likes to lock himself in his room and he does that extra at Christmas. His room is his sanctuary.”
The daddy of two, from Arnold in Nottinghamshire, stated he realized fairly rapidly to not overwhelm Daniel with presents on Christmas Day.
“As his mother and father we need to give him numerous presents, plus plenty of individuals give him presents as they’ve adopted his story.
“We have tried it on Christmas Day – we tried to get him to take a seat down and open every little thing and he had a meltdown. He was actually upset. It might probably take every week to open all of his presents.”
Mr Harrison, who says Daniel finds Santa Claus horrifying, is not positive if his son comprehends the that means of Christmas.
“He goes to Catholic faculty, the place they train [about Christmas], however we have no concept if he understands the thought of Jesus… all we all know is Dan thinks it is [about] presents.”
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He says it’s also troublesome for his son to clarify what he desires for Christmas, which makes them really feel responsible as mother and father as a result of Daniel’s teenage sister Hannah will get what she asks for.
Christmas Dinner is a problem for Daniel too. He has a worry of consuming meals after struggling acid reflux disease as a child and has by no means eaten a Christmas meal.
“This yr he would possibly be capable of have one thing pureed down or chopped down very tremendous… he is by no means eaten something on the Christmas desk,” Mr Harrison says.
“For years he would not even sit close to meals. In order that feels horrible. We’re sat across the desk and our son is upstairs.
“We have form of come to phrases with that now, however hopefully this yr one thing would possibly change just a little bit and he can have a chunk of turkey. Nevertheless it takes him a very long time to eat and he needs to be supervised or he might choke.
“He is solely been invited to a few events – are you able to think about how that feels to us? I do not suppose Daniel’s bothered, however for us it is fairly troublesome. However the youngsters [in his class] do love him, they appear after him.”
For Simona Zetu, a Romanian interpreter from Nice Barr in Birmingham, the problem is twofold as each her four-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter have autism.
She says essentially the most difficult factor for her son Patrick is meals. He stopped consuming 4 months in the past and can now solely have milk.
He won’t be sitting with the household to eat Christmas dinner and will likely be taking part in in one other room.
“We won’t power him to eat as a result of he gags,” Ms Zetu says. “It’s concerning the texture and color of the meals.”
Her daughter Crina used to have the same downside. For 4 years she would solely eat chips and tomato sauce and wouldn’t sit with the household at mealtimes till she was about 10.
Now she is older she is curious about meals – Japanese delicacies is her favorite for the time being – and can sit with the remainder of the household on Christmas Day.
“They each ate usually till they had been 18 months previous. Then they stopped – it occurred in sooner or later,” Ms Zetu says.
“It looks like I’m mentioning the identical baby once more.”
She says that though Patrick is glad to open items on 25 December, he doesn’t perceive Christmas.
“He does not appear to know what’s going on,” she says.
Ms Zetu, who moved to the UK from Romania along with her household three years in the past, says Crina was the identical.
“She didn’t appear to be conscious that Santa was coming. She was in her personal world. After the age of six she began to be extra current and began to acknowledge the that means of issues and would get overexcited.”
Ms Zetu provides that Christmas buying, with all of the lights and noise, may also be troublesome.
“With Patrick it’s difficult. After about half an hour he sits down and we cannot be capable of transfer him. I’ve to choose him up and go away.”
He doesn’t shout or scream, simply sits.
“With my daughter, it’s simply grabbing every little thing you want in a single or two hours. She likes to spend most of her time in a bookshop.”
Visiting individuals and having them over at Christmas time is one thing Ms Zetu avoids the place attainable.
“If I’ve company, I at all times be certain they [the children] have their room prepared. After 15 minutes, Crina would need to go away.”
Crina doesn’t take pleasure in informal dialog as, for her, it doesn’t have a objective. She prefers to go to her room to attract, paint or learn.
“I’d not change them for the world,” Ms Zetu says. “I’m fortunate to have such beautiful youngsters. They’re very loving. They love hugs and kisses. They’re superb.
“It’s heartbreaking for me after I say my youngsters are autistic and folks say ‘I am sorry’. Do not be sorry – they simply suppose in another way. They’ve a contented life.”
“While you see issues about autism, you often see the ugly half. Total, now we have a pleasant household life. Autism is just not about having tantrums.”