It is difficult to put into words how isolating the holidays can be for autism families. Everything is out of whack. My child is overstimulated one moment, and then asked to roll with the unexpected the next. It is a season of meltdowns and friends are few.
On Christmas Day my son in the midst of a breakdown on a city sidewalk declared,” Christmas is making me crazy.” To be fair, it was the sugar, lack of a clear schedule and different environment, but all that encapsulates a fairly typical holiday for most of us. For my son it feels anything but typical. It also can make one feel isolated. Why am I not enjoying this? Everyone else seems to want me to be happy. I know my son feels this, and quite frankly so do I.
I spent my holiday break on a constant vigil. I was trying to keep track of how many cookies and sweets my child ate. I was trying to figure out what to do to keep him occupied away from home and in an environment fairly foreign to him. I was basically on meltdown watch 2018.
There is also a sense of my own isolation. I know others are participating in holiday events. Many are too crowded for my family to enjoy. Others events we are simply not invited to join. My son doesn’t have a social group. We don’t have swim team friends, or soccer team friends. He isn’t really interested in being around large groups of children. One or two is fine, but there is anxiety in numbers. When many social interactions as adults revolve around our children, the more isolated the child, the more isolated the parent as well.
As for my faith during the holidays, I have always been inspired by the verse in Luke that says, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” I don’t need a fancy church service or even nativity scenes to celebrate my faith. Quite frankly the pageantry of church at this time of year can be dysregulating to my son.
Then end of school can be awful. All my son can do is think about getting out of school. The performances and the year end activities can send him into free fall. Meanwhile, it can also make going back to school another day, or even returning after break that much harder.
Getting back to a routine never felt so good, as we enter a new year. I’m not by any means recharged, but that’s OK. I’m ready. After tears and some self esteem help, so is my son. Maybe next year I’ll just celebrate Festivus.