Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrating the Holidays with an Autistic Flare

With the summer Holidays picking up, its easy to get caught up in the festivities. The parties, the cookouts, the fireworks and the large venues. This time of year is often difficult for some, as all of those things can be difficult to handle. It can be a sensory overload, even for the regular person. When you throw Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder into the mix, it makes things a little harder.

I find that this time of year is more difficult than Christmas. Now don't get me wrong, Christmas is also stressful, as someone in our house doesn't like Santa Claus. A topic for another time. For us, its the large crowds,the fireworks and being out of our school routine. I love fireworks. Growing up in Canada, we didn't have neighbourhood displays of fireworks. It was illegal and you couldn't buy them. You had to go watch the City fireworks display. Even back then when I was little, I still didn't like the loudness of it. And I can see how that would startle a child and make them fearful. Now that I have children of my own and see the very violent reaction they have for all things loud and overwhelming, I have an understanding of why things like fireworks or large venues might not be ok for some.

I am often asked why we don't do the huge celebrations.When I explain that I have two autistic children who can't tolerate large venues, 9 times out of 10, I get " Wow.. that must really suck for you.." Now I know that most people don't mean that as insult. If you don't live with it, you aren't going to understand the ins and outs of Autism. I get that. I honestly don't think that the average everyday person doesn't comprehend the full extent of what it means to deal with an Autistic sensory overload. Or what it means to always having to be on full alert because you have a child that bolts or wanders. That doesn't mean to say that all autistic people are like that. I just know my two and it could be different for someone else.

So I always say that we are celebrating our holidays in our own way. It doesn't make us any less patriotic or festive. There are lots of thing we do that are fun and still maintains the spirit of the holiday.

* We keep it local. Neighbourhood cookouts. Fun, easy and the kids are in their own environment. They can go inside your house if things get to overwhelming for them and they can take a sensory break.

* We like to make our own festive decorations. It doesn't have to be anything too fancy. Sometimes a Flag drawn by your little one can one of the best decorations, as you know it was done with love and by someone who worked hard to do it.

* We love to bake. Everyone likes to help bake. And that can also help with the sensory input. The different types of things that go into baking. And we know the end result is something yummy.

* Sometimes we like to read stories that pertain to the holiday we are celebrating. Or look at pictures of different ways others celebrate.

These are just some of the things we do in this house, that have helped us. We keep it simple or we try to. I want my children to enjoy celebrations like the 4th of July. I want them to have fond memories of it. And sometimes, We as parents have to find ways to help accommodate the special needs of our children. And if the rest of the world doesn't understand that, well, they are welcome to come take my children to a large venue with everything loud and then deal with the meltdown that I can guarantee will happen times two.

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