We all know the Andy Williams song:
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all”
The song paints a beautiful picture of holiday celebrations with loved ones, and all the joy they should hold. However, as I grow older, I can’t help but wonder, is it all just fairytale or perhaps an illusion? Personally, as a parent, the holidays are extremely stressful because there is always the desire to see and do it all, that must be balanced with what our children can actually tolerate. When you have a child with special needs, the holiday season becomes even more difficult to navigate, because of the chaos that comes with changed routines and sensory overload.
For most families, I think the song goes a little more like this:
“It’s the most stressful time of the year
With the kids crying and struggling,
And everyone telling them “Be a good kid”
It’s the most stressful time of the year
It’s the har-hardest season of all
With those holiday gatherings and loud crazy meetings
When people don’t understand at all
It’s the har-hardest season of all”
I used to love the holidays and look forward to the hustle and bustle, with all the gatherings and celebrations; honestly, the louder the party the more successful and fun it was for me. I waited with anticipation to visit with family and friends until the wee hours of the morning, just enjoying each other and the holiday. However now I have my children to think about, and my idea of the perfect holiday causes at least one of them distress and pain. If as their mother I am struggling to reach a compromise and grieve our old way of life, I can only imagine how hard it is for everyone else in our life.
We are blessed with so many people that love us and want to spend the holidays with us. Our family and friends look forward to seeing our children and enjoying all their craziness. Most of Beth’s sensory issues usually make for an au-some day of rough-housing, filled with delightful screams and giggles, with Anne right there alongside her big sister, ready for the fun. However, when there are too many of the people she loves in one place, and the noise level is much more than normal, her sensory system goes into overload and she becomes a confused, sad mess. If we work really hard, we can minimize the meltdowns and behaviors, and to most it appears she is simply being a bratty child. I suppose we concentrate so hard on keeping her regulated that most people have no idea how bad these excitable, loud gatherings truly affect Beth. Although, sometimes I wish they could see the real picture, I also cannot let her suffer in an effort to educate people. Thankfully, there are brave, wonderful people who have already showed the world what it is like, and I can share their wisdom and examples.
I have found 3 amazing clips, created by people with ASD or SPD, on YouTube that simulate sensory overload. Every person who loves an autistic child, a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, or other special needs that affect the nervous system NEED to watch these, and read their descriptions:
Please remember the basic meaning of the holiday season is to enjoy our loved ones and celebrate the blessings in our life. We all must compromise during the holidays to create a loving gathering filled with happiness and joy. For us the most important part of any celebration is our children, for they are our greatest blessings. Perhaps the adults will not get everything they feel they want in the beginning. However, if the children are happy, their joy will fill the house with such wonder, perhaps everyone will be surprised at how the different (not less) approach brought about a new tradition that left everyone filled with hope, love and joy. I pray you all find you own, unique way of celebrating this holiday season, which will fill your children and families with beautiful, lasting memories.
If you are struggling, as we are, to create a sensory friendly holiday season for your family, please read these two fabulous blog posts. Although I am still not sure what our plan is, these extraordinary people helped me see things in a more positive and hopeful light.
Autism Proud – Journey With Us – by Jest Tu Positive by Dorothy Stronglove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.