Christmas preparation and autism.

Aiden loves Christmas, but his love comes at a high price, both literally for us and generally speaking for our whole family, including him.

Over the years we have learned how to keep Aiden’s anxiety low, mostly by having routines and keeping life predictable. But for the rest of the family that is often at their expense. Let me give you an example. Putting up the tree – what a lovely, magical and Christmasy family event, well that’s how I remember it from my childhood. It was so exciting, Christmas music on, all the family together, munching our way through the Quality Street tin (which was much bigger then!) I remember taking it in turns with my sister each year to being lifted up, by my dad, to put the fairy on the top of the tree.

Yeah, that’s not what what my children will remember. Aiden’s love for Christmas causes him so much anxiety that he he has to plan it to the enth degree.

His control led the rest of the kids to just back off and leave him to it. Aiden needs everything to look the same each year, so the tree goes in the same place with the same decorations and is put up on the same day. The same with his light display and with every decoration in the house. The joy and Christmas cheer is somewhat transformed into a militant mission with strict procedures.

Now the others are older, they now fully understand and accept that Aidens control is a need as opposed to a want but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like they didn’t have the same magical experience that I did. So this year, we came up with a plan.

As it turns out, the boys, being boys or being teenagers, I’m not sure which, are not bothered about putting up a tree or feeling Christmasy. But, I knew Jazz still wanted to be a part of it. So this year, we bought Jasmine a new little tree to go in her bedroom, some lights to decorate her room. We put the Christmas music on, ate the chocolates, from the now tiny tin, and danced around the tree like no-one was watching.

We will always celebrate the fact that Aiden loves Christmas, especially after so many years of us getting it so wrong for him. Back then, it was hard for us to take a step back and understand that we were the ones that caused the meltdowns by trying to bring surprises and make things magical. But we got there in the end. It’s amazing that he still loves it.

However, as much as he loves it, Christmas still causes him anxiety. He still needs to know what presents he will get and we still have to give them to him in the same way every year. He still has to take control over anything Christmas, and he still has no concept of money. But he now finds pleasure in giving presents to others, and we take that as a massive win.

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