Dear Mom. Your child has high functioning autism (or Asperger syndrome) and the holidays are approaching quickly.
For many people, the holidays are a time for family, friends, food, gatherings, special events, etc. That’s probably true for you and your child too. But you know it’s not going to be easy.
Because Christmas is a stressful time for your child. And you.
Your child and changes are like oil and water. He thrives on a predictable schedule and you have to work hard to get him back on track when things don’t go as planned.
The holidays are practically the definition of change from your daily routine.
There’s school parties and special events, Christmas Eve services and family reunions. Different decorations around the house. Different food. Different bedtimes. Different everything.
Any one of those things would be tough, but to throw all of it at once at your child? It’s a wonder you both survive into January!
It doesn’t help that most people don’t understand either.
It could be a well-meaning friend who offers your child candy she shouldn’t eat because it causes a behavioral reaction later.
It would never be an issue for most people and because your child looks and acts normal much of the time, your friend doesn’t think about it. But you pay for it later. Big time.
Your great-aunt is offended because your child won’t try her prize-winning green bean casserole. You try to explain that you’re not raising a spoiled child; it’s a sensory issue, but she doesn’t believe you.
There’s the guilt trip because you need to leave a gathering early because your child is approaching his limit.
Does anyone understand?
The Christmas chaos might be gradual for you and your child. She might be okay at the start of Christmas vacation, but as time progresses, she gets more agitated because everything is wearing on her.
You begin to see small behavior changes – things you thought he had moved passed – creep back in. He’s tired and you can tell.
So are you.
You explain to friends and family that your child was doing great and she’s “not normally like this.” But they pat you on the back, with a pacifying “Sure, honey, of course she is” as he begins to spiral downwards because she’s overstimulated.
For all the “autism awareness” out there, there certainly isn’t much patience for your child (or you) when he melts down at the store.
You promised yourself you’d stop worrying so much about what others think, but those looks and comments still sting.
No one else understands those little accomplishments from your child that you hold so dear to your heart.
It’s the simple things most people take for granted, like the time she said “thank you” for a gift.
It’s not easy raising a special needs child in a world that just doesn’t get it. But you’re doing the best you can.
Christmas is a time of setbacks for many of us moms with children who have high functioning autism. And while most people look forward to “the most wonderful time of the year,” it’s okay to dread this part.
Dear Mom, be kind to yourself. Don’t let others make you feel guilty. You are an amazing mom.
And you are not alone.
I get it. And hundreds – thousands – of other moms of children with high functioning autism get it too.
Hello, thank you for the encouraging, wel-written article, while I don’t have a child with autism, I grew up with JRA. I’m beginning to understand the struggles that parents and children with autism face from this perspective. On one hand, I want to say that I think most people want to be kind but they don’t know what to say, like the Aunt that say Sure Honey. It’s hard when you think people are seeing the worst of your child and you don’t want them to have that view every other day of the year, you don’t want to make excuses, and you don’t want to overcompensate with explanations. JRA for me was an invisible illness, there were times as a child I would sit and stare, because I was trying to deal with the pain and my uncle would say what’s wrong with her, or my temper would flare because I had enough, frustration and tears about small things that didn’t seem to make sense to others. Some people still don’t get it after 30 years, these people probably never will. Best wishes around the holidays. There are people who understand.
Thanks for sharing, Christi. Hugs!
Loved your article. My 9 yr old son still hasn’t been diagnosed but we know for sure something isn’t right. I struggle constantly with guilt from people’s remarks. Between dealing with him and 2 other boys that are 17 and 7. To add to all that my divorced in-laws live in the basement. Any suggestions for how to get my in-laws on board with following the rules.
That’s a tough one, Kim. My best advice is to have your husband talk to them, but if he can’t or won’t, you might need to lay down the law yourself. Your son’s health and wellness (and yours!) is important.
Hugs to you!
Thank you for posting this. My son is 2 1/2 and is not officially diagnosed with autism yet (he has an evaluation in February) but I can relate to most of these things. For us, the biggest struggle is having to leave family events early because we can tell he’s getting overstimulated. Right now, he only says a couple of words so I’m not looking forward to when relatives give him a gift and he doesn’t say “thank you”. It’s not that he isn’t thankful, it’s just that he can’t say thank you quite yet. I hope my relatives will be able to understand that.
Thanks for your encouragement. My 17 year old son was finally diagnosed just this year. After years of tourment and bullying. Hair pulling and anxiety and meltdowns.
Reading on a 12th grade level in 4th grade we were told much later. We held him back in Pre-K because he was a preemie and couldn’t skip or tie his shoes.
He’s so angry now. I feel so sad. Why didn’t I push my gut feelings sooner. We have council but he is still in denial.
Mom’s follow your instincts.