• Janele Hoerner

Have A Merry Autism Christmas

We all can relate that life is full of constant changes. A few we expect- like the changing of the seasons -which brings about the bustle of the holidays. Though some changes turn our world upside down permanently. For a large portion of American’s, the Holiday’s brings a happy atmosphere into the cold winter season with a reason to cook, clean, and to shop for the people we love. It is a time where doorbells ring and smiling faces await from those we love who we have not seen in a while. The world just seems to be aglow with happiness. It seems to be a time where those happy smiles do not fade and yet there is another side to the Holiday’s that advertisements seem to keenly miss.

Autism is a word that most have heard and yet seldom understand. A word in which seems to capture all those happy and joyful sounds, smells, and changes therefore turning the season into something with a dismal outlook. Children with Autism suffer greatly as their world is rocked to its very core during these sentimental times that we as parents, glorify. Schedules are changed, smells are changed, and sounds are increased - Life seems severely altered. Life with Autism can bring those special events to screeching halt, but there is another way.

Being gifted, as I call it, with not only one child, but two children with Autism life has brought our families outlook to that screeching halt numerous times. What my husband and I envisioned, what our families envisioned, what our society envisions as happy holiday moments was changed permanently first with the birth of our oldest son and drastically again with the birth of our 3rd son a little less than 4 years later.

So case and point, our lives seem to be irrevocably ruined, right? Well to a lot of spectators sadly yes, but no- our lives just need to work a little differently than the rest of the world. Holidays for us do not look much different from the rest of the days of the year. Yes we decorate, but very minimally. Yes I cook, but nothing out of the ordinary and I do not force my children to eat anything they do not wish to, even if everyone expects me to. Yes I shop, but I do it all online when they are peacefully asleep while I secretly listen to Christmas music that may upset them. You see, although American life promotes the flashy, the dazzling, the extravagant- life with children with special needs doesn’t have to look the same.

It has to fit you and your family or it’s not peaceful and does not produce those silent nights. Sleep is hard to come by in my family so the Holiday’s for me mean that everyone is happily tucked in their beds at the expected times. No it’s not exceptionally unpredictable, fun, and a party, but we have discovered how to survive in the midst of the bustle of the season. Over our almost 10 year journey with Autism, we have found peace as a family in delivering our children the daily expectations carefully planned out the night before an event. For extra special gatherings, which we keep to a minimal, we even start speaking about it daily, weeks before these special Holiday gatherings so that this way everyone has a more peaceful and happy Holiday season.

I hope that you learn to enjoy the minimalistic aspect of the Holiday’s and to cherish your child’s peace, at all costs, during this hectic time of the year!

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