Autism and Christmas Time

** December is a tricky month for us. I’m revisiting some of my more popular Christmas posts here on the blog while I focus on my family for the month. **

This post originally appeared here.

Christmas holidays have arrived and with it they bring the crazy, lots and lots of crazy. My girls are so hyped by the impending arrival of Christmas day it has been a struggle to get them to focus on much at all. We go from excited screams to hysterical tears within seconds and then bounce back again, repeatedly. 

Annie is able to focus for slightly longer periods of time than Heidi which means I can usually get her to settle down for 30 minutes or so with a computer game, or a painting activity or to read a book.

Heidi however is challenging. She is stimming a lot, chewing her hair is a new Christmas stim, bouncing up and down on the wooden floors, running, laughing manically and just being full on sensory seeking.

Don’t dare look at her though or breath in her vicinity or touch her because it is all just too much. Which makes it really tricky when she climbs on my lap seeking a cuddle, I have to squeeze her rather than cuddle and turn my head away so my eyes are not looking at her and my breath does not touch her skin. Sometimes Autism is challenging.

So how does this relate to play? Well as a 5yo child, Heidi wants to play, she just can’t settle for long and finds things overwhelm her very quickly. I’ve been taking notes, morning is better, solitary play is less likely to result in tears, parental reassurance is required more frequently and dear god whatever you do, don’t leave the house, home is safe and reassuring and quiet and if Heidi has a full on meltdown there are no condemning eyes to witness.

I’ve been mostly letting Heidi play by herself as right now I just need her to find some kind of equilibrium to get us through to Christmas. She loves to play with her toys and talks to them at great length, going over the same script and often admonishing the toys “Don’t stare at me, its rude.” This is what happens to toys who don’t avert their eyes –

Heidi anthropomorphises everything so the food toys are out and she happily has conversations with them and there is no eyes on food toys so they don’t stare at her.

Heidi’s top bunk has become a boat, full of soft toys, which is fabulous for sensory input, keeping her room calm, dark and quiet really helps too. All those nasty staring eyes are hiding too.

We’ve had friends come over to visit and Annie is very keen to do the proper tea party, help me make simple foods and generally do the whole Christmas thing. She has very definite ideas of how Christmas should look and has lots of fun drawing and creating menus and decorations. Annie sets a very nice table too –

Annie’s way of coping with the Christmas crazy is to control as many aspects of it herself as possible and I find myself having to remind her that as the child in the family she can not dictate everyone elses Christmas plans – including parties at other persons homes. If we have visitors over Annie shadows their every move and gets very cranky if there is more than one visitor and they go in different directions as she can not follow both at the same time.

I also spend much time reminding Annie that right now Heidi is just too overwhelmed and Annie needs to just try and play somewhere else, but Annie wants to control Heidi too, which leads to some epic battles.

Then at other times they both unite, Annie finds ways to feed all Heidi’s sensory needs and Heidi finds her calm place for a little while and I remember that in 4 short days this will all be behind us for another 12 months.

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Marita Beard
Life, the Universe and Autism
Marita Beard

stuffwiththing

Life, the Universe and Autism

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