In all probability, this will be my last post before Christmas, possibly the last for the year so before I start, I'd just like to thank all of my readers and especially the people who left comments. Those comments helped steer this blog in different - and sometimes quite unexpected directions. Your input was greatly appreciated and has ensured that this years journey has been an interesting and relevant one.
The Christmas Pressures
There's a lot to be said for the social pressures of Christmas and in my family this has been a particular problem over the years. There is always a power struggle with my mother-in-law who feels that Christmas lunch is her exclusive domain. Even when, after years of struggling I gave up trying to share (every second year) and moved my immediate family permanently to boxing day, the pressure didn't cease - and this year is no exception.
The pressure may be coming from outside but I've noticed that over the years my wife and I are "short" with each other for most of December. That "outside" pressure certainly rubs off on the "inside" of our marriage.
This is an important point for me because I've noticed that although aspies are said to lack empathy, we're obviously not immune to this kind of pressure. The other thing that I've noticed is that we are sometimes emotional parrots. If someone smiles at us or is nice to us we tend to be nice to others around us. The same is true in reverse.
If you find yourself disagreeing a lot with your partner, it's worthwhile stopping to think about any external pressures which may be exerting themselves on the relationship or any negative feelings which you or they may be subconsciously reciprocating.
Those Overwhelming Christmas Social Events
The lead up to Christmas, and of course, the event itself is full of social events. Christmas parties, visiting relatives, long phone calls and worst of all, unexpected guests.
All of this can take a toll on the aspie who needs time to recharge his social batteries. This is especially true for children who suddenly have to share their bedrooms or even have to give up their beds for other guests.
An aspie who is feeling overwhelmed by social pressures needs to go somewhere "familiar" and private in order to calm down. For many aspies, this is probably their bedroom. As a parent, if your aspie is prone to meltdowns, you need to ensure that he has somewhere relatively isolated that he can retreat to if things seem to be overwhelming him. If you're staying away from home, it's a good idea to introduce him to the "quiet spot" as early as possible.
Christmas is full of snacky sugary foods which will tend to negatively affect concentration and sleep. If your aspie child is already quite talkative or otherwise worked up about his special interests, prepare for a major onslaught fueled by these foods and by any new gifts which may occur.
If your child's temperament is particularly affected by these sorts of foods, avoid them or keep a close eye on the levels of consumption.
The final thing I want to do is to end on a lighthearted note;
Here are a couple of perception things which I or other aspies (or children with learning difficulties) have said/experienced about Christmas;
- Making a List
When I was a child, my mother used to ask my sister and I to go through the toy catalogs and make a list of the things we'd like Santa to bring us. My sister would end up with only a couple of things but I'd quite literally end up with about 100 items on the list. What was funny was that we'd have visitors and they'd see my list and react with distaste. It wasn't until I was an adult that I understood how it could possibly be offensive.
- A Short Life
The child of a friend of ours was very upset one Easter. At first, we figured that it was ok for the child to be a little upset - after all, the events of Easter are quite horrific but then, somewhere between cries, the words "he was only a baby" came out. It took a few queries but eventually the real issue came out... He thought that Jesus had only been born a few months previously.
- Just what I Always Wanted
When my sister and I were little, we were trained by my mother to not give any clues if we didn't like a present or if we already had one. As an example; my mother said to say "ahh... Just what I always wanted". This quickly became a code-phrase between my sister and I to describe something that we hated. I think it caused my mother even more embarrassment because of the tone of voice we used to say it in.
Finally; there's an article from 2005 on Aspergers at Christmas time which you may want to read here. It's been reprinted quite a bit but it's still very relevant;
Asperger's Syndrome at Christmas Time
by Nellie Frances
Thank you all for reading and participating through 2008. Have a safe and happy Christmas and I look forward to communicating with you in 2009.