M has not enjoyed December. In fact, she has been on high alert since the schools went back after the half term break in October. Too many changes to the daily routine, and even when they have all been planned in advance, her autistic brain is on overload. Most afternoons and evenings there has been shouting and crying, to the point I seriously wondered about taking her out of school for the remainder of the term.
But, then, would I be helping her if I did? Everybody has some form of stress to deal with, and M’s school is superb in how they adapt and handle her anxieties, which I fear will be part of her life for a long time, if not for ever.
In the end, I left her in school and worked hard at reducing demands even further in the home. To date we still don’t have one single Christmas decoration up, and she has been allowed to trail her fleecy blankets, soft toys and soothers all over the house, even at the dinner table if it helps to keep her calm. And she has had a lot of baths.
Our bath is huge and takes a lot of water to fill it even half way. M adores water, it’s her primary sensory calming tool, and I am permanently grateful we don’t have a meter fitted. Her brother tends to have a shower first then we fill the bath and allow as many toys as M would like. She is always much happier after a good soak, although sadly there can be issues in getting her out of the tub.
Our Christmas will be low-key; a leisurely breakfast after the wild excitement of opening their stockings, then a few presents over coffee. We always stop part way through, and stick on a DVD to keep the excitement from becoming overwhelming, then it’s back to presents and then a late lunch (keeping strictly to our usual weekly roast for M but extras for anyone who wants them.)
The evening will be Dr Who (of course!) and then in all probability a long bubble bath to help M wind down after a busy day.
I guess what I’m saying is don’t feel you have to conform to what other people might expect of you for the festive season – if it works for you or your child, then go ahead and celebrate the way that you feel most comfortable, even if it does mean you spend 72 hours in your favourite pyjamas.
Happy Christmas everyone.