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  • Writer's pictureDr Jennifer Turner

The ‘C’ word in November?

Yes I am going to talk about Christmas in November, sorry to everyone who struggles with this. The reason is that for many autistic people, planning is the key, and you are already surrounded by 'Christmas' whether you like it or not!

There is a group who find the emotions of Christmas overwhelming because they get intense positive emotions (very excited!). They are the group who you want to minimise exposure to Christmas for as long as possible. Talking about it, planning it and preparing them directly is too much. However, this does not stop you preparing behind the scenes.

Let's talk about primary aged children to begin with. My son is 7 and at school they have already been talking about ways of celebrating Christmas in Religious Education and have made Christmas pictures for their charity Christmas cards. The younger years have been rehearsing Christmas songs for the nativity. They have non-school uniform days for Children in Need, Odd Socks day for anti-bullying week and non-school uniform in return for something for the Christmas fair. You can see already how much change and sensory overwhelm may be waiting. That's before each classroom puts up their decorations and the super size Christmas tree arrives in the hall and the expectation that all children will love Christmas dinner with crackers. I know my son's school is not the only one.

Secondary schools are often a little easier as their is much less change in school. However, the social demands of buying and receiving presents becomes an ever bigger event. It is no longer ok to show your true feelings at that awful scratchy jumper knitted by your nan. You hate suprises but everyone else loves them. Every time you leave the house you are bombarded by all the lights on your street, and if you are really lucky they will be playing carols too. Sound familiar?

So how can we help? I don't want to teach you things you already know, after all you have managed Christmas for many years. However, families can find it really helpful to make a list of all the potential challenges for their child, or themselves at christmas. They can see and preempt what might find hard and think of ways to manage these factors. If you haven't already had a read of the strategy to help children go back to school, this is helpful here. Think of each thing as having a cost and then consider how you are going to help your child replenish that cost. For example, a non school uniform day at school might be a big drain on your child's resources so you might have to have a really quiet week at home with minimal expectations to help your child recover.

I would love to see your lists, and I'm sure it would help other families notice other things they may not have considered. If you feel comfortable to comment here, on Facebook or via instagram please do. We can then think together about ideas to help make the lead up to Christmas less stressful for everyone.

Keep an eye out for my next post which will be top tips for managing Christmas Day.

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