Our Autism Story – “Holidays”
Holidays can be really tough for our family! The traditional “pack the kids up in the car and head over to a family member’s house for a big party” presents a number of challenges for Brahm:
Anxiety – Nothing is routine and everything is different and unpredictable!
Sensory Issues – There are different smells from foods, it is loud, and there is visual overload with the number of people.
Foods – We may run into food allergy issues or the foods may not be Brahm’s “routine” foods.
Safety – The house may not be “Brahm-proofed”. He could wander away, it may be close to water, things like scissors may be in reach, or there may be fragile items that don’t stand a chance if Brahm has a meltdown.
To best address our family’s needs, we celebrate some holidays in a different way:
Thanksgiving – We invite the party to our house! There are still challenges with noise, quantity of people, and unusual foods. But, it’s in an environment Brahm is comfortable in. He can hide in his room or the basement if he needs to take a break. We also don’t have to worry about safety or things being broken!
Halloween – All four of us dress up in costumes! We encourage Brahm to trick-or-treat at a couple houses. Then, we let Brahm come home, while Helena hits up the rest of the neighborhood. We decorate the outside of our house with all the crazy stuff you find at the Halloween stores (this year we added an 8-foot tall robotic butler!), turn on the Halloween music, and pass out candy. I’m usually dancing to the music and Brahm is sitting on a chair right next to me eating candy and bopping along to the music. He really enjoys being “there” without being “right there”!
Christmas – We travel to our in-town family for Christmas, but we adjust to our needs a little bit. We limit our visits to just one house on each day. We also create a little fun within our family by wearing Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve and ugly sweaters on Christmas day. We plan these outfits out in advance, so Brahm knows exactly what he (and we) are wearing, which gives his something predictable when the rest of the day might be very unpredictable.
New Years Eve – We have a gigantic party of four at our house! We go all out and plan a 7-10 course meal consisting of things like mini hot dogs, French fries, fruit kabobs, and mozzarella sticks – whatever the kids want! The kids dress fancy and have sparkling juice and a dance party. We have a big countdown with noisemakers, hats, and beads that sometimes happens at 9:00 central (with the help of some internet videos from last year!). We basically do everything we would for a party of 100, but just for our family.
Our holidays may look a little different than traditional holidays, but they seem to work best for us – Brahm is calmer and happier and all four of us are able to enjoy ourselves more!