A Very Autistic Xmas….

30 Dec


First off, its traditional to talk about what your stash was so here’s mine. First up was the traditional Dad pressie of socks. A nice 3 pack of Pierre Cardin beauties. I’m wearing them right now and can report positively on their efficient and comfortable foot covering qualities. I don’t think my socks will ever reach the same heights of fame as some socks have in the past but hey – they work for me.

Next up, my kids each got me my most favourite of Xmas pressies – a book. Each reflects my abiding love for all things historical, particularly British history, so I look forward to cosying up for the next couple of weeks and getting immersed in Tudor England, Norse legends and the British military.

My beautiful and wise wife got me 2 gifts, first was the new David Gray CD which is hauntingly good. The man has a voice that is as ‘right’ as the clear note one gets from tapping the side of a crystal glass.

The second pressie was a rather spiffy camcorder which means we’ll finally be able to make movies of the kids, something we couldn’t afford until we saw how cheap this camera was.

Life over Xmas is an interesting time when you have an autistic family member. Its a hell of a lot of change to have to deal with when you are someone who doesn’t cope well with change and the change in routine (parents home from work who usually aren’t, the bewildering concept of ‘presents’, a bloody great tree in the front room, lots of people dropping off or picking up pressies, cards all over the place) can be very confusing.

We try to maintain a balance. Our non-autistic kids need and deserve a Xmas with all the trimmings but our autistic kids can’t deal with too much Xmas so we scale back the decorations to a tree and a wreath on the front door, autistic kids presents aren’t (or are only partially) wrapped and we tackle the Xmas dinner in stages so that everyone who can cope with Xmas has enough materialism and face-stuffing to suffice and those who struggle don’t get too overanxious. For those people, doors to bedrooms are left open and favourite items are prominently displayed so that retreat is always available if needed.

Sometimes it gets too much no matter what you do and when you also have a young baby who picks up on emotional excess that can result in a run of bad nights. At these times, parents fall back into the ‘shift sleeping’ pattern of one staying up through the night and one taking on the day. For the one taking on the night this can have unexpected benefits as this parent has the chance to watch an entire footy match from start to end without any other adults complaining! Indeed, on particularly bad nights, this parent can watch _all_ the scheduled matches over the Xmas period thanks to Sky’s excellent ‘Football First’ program and the magic of interactive TV. This parent is happy to report that the lads have done well in the last few games and seem to rising clear of the relegation spots that looked so inevitable a couple of months ago.

One of the main areas to monitor is the social aspects of Xmas. Understandably, friends and family want to pop over to see the family, drop off and/or pick up pressies but these visits aren’t as simple as ‘popping over’ to an autistic person. The ground rules for each visit must be established with the visitor before they come over so that the purpose and length of each visit can be understood and tolerated and those rues must be adhered to. Depending on your social circle this can sometimes result in a few people who grumble but screw them – just don’t invite them next year. They take us as we are, not how they want us to be. Our friends are all magnificent in this respect and 95% of our families are as well. One or two can’t commit to putting others needs first but thats their loss. People popping over ad hoc is forbidden in our family. Its just not fair to our autistic kids and our kids come first.

All this organisation puts paid to the traditional British pastime of ‘getting bladdered’ for tired parents but luckily this means one learns to appreciate the glass or two one manages to get of the nice Soave or Chiraz. It also means that your Xmas’s become much more family-centric. Indeed, our whole lives have become much more family-centric since autism entered our collective life. Thats a present that is beyond value.

11 Responses to “A Very Autistic Xmas….”

  1. Alexander Carlin December 30, 2005 at 12:25 #

    With so much selfishness, greed, and debauchery going on during the season, it’s heartwarming to read of just the opposite. Glad to read a real tale of good cheer this time of year!

  2. Matthew Pennell December 30, 2005 at 12:36 #

    Glad to hear you and yours had a good Christmas, Kev – sounds like you made excellent use of your enforced sleep deprivation too (can I borrow your kids next time Channel 4 decide to show classic horror films in the middle of the night? I need a better excuse to stay up…)

  3. Matt December 30, 2005 at 13:26 #

    Sounds like all things considered you had a nice break.

    Also sounds familiar to how we have to treat my nan, not too many visitors, favourite stuff on display, corination street always on…. 😉

    Shes just old bless her.

    I think I might order the new David Gray CD, Ive got all his old ones, and he is one of my favourite artists, but its always a tad depressing, does the new album move on from this?

  4. Kev December 30, 2005 at 13:52 #

    @Alex: thanks ;o) but we get our fair share of greed as well – we’re just too knackered for much debauchery!

    @MattP: Borrow away! As long as you like, I’m not selfish!! ;o)

    @MattS: Its all in a similar vien to his previous stuff so don’t listen if you’ve just split up with someone ;o)

  5. Susan Senator December 30, 2005 at 13:53 #

    Just beautiful, Kev. This is our life exactly, but seen through the British/Christian looking glass. You are right; in the end, it should all come down to this simple, pure experience of family love.

  6. María Luján December 30, 2005 at 20:46 #

    Thank you for sharing your Christmas. AS you say your life become much more family-centric and Xmas is very special in this sense when a child has autism.
    María Luján

  7. elmindreda December 31, 2005 at 03:26 #

    I’ll second that. Sounds absolutely wonderful, and reading this sort of thing gives me some hope.

  8. bonni December 31, 2005 at 05:48 #

    my abiding love for all things historical, particularly British history

    Hey, something else we have in common, Kev!

  9. Kev December 31, 2005 at 12:11 #

    Thanks Susan, María and elmindreda :o)

    You’re a history buff too bonni? I said to Susan over at her place awhile ago that we must be related – seems like you and me must be too ;o)

  10. amanda January 1, 2006 at 19:55 #

    i totally am on your wave length as i have an autistic son and we go through all that at xmas including sleepless nights and no presants wrapped .i also think its the family members that find autism hard to understand some still treat him as if hes no different but at leat xmas for us is more special as we now just worry about real friends and our close family unit lovely to hear about somebody in my world

  11. Anne January 1, 2006 at 22:09 #

    And a happy autistic new year, Kev, with thanks for hosting a rowdy and contentious group with such aplomb. Back when somebody posted on AutAdvo, hey, check out that kevinleitch.co.uk, it’s pretty cool, who knew we’d all move in and sleep on your couch?

    Anne Bevington

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