Aaaaaahhhhhhh! Christmas season with an Aspie. It looks like this.
Behavior tickets daily for a straight eight days, two missed homework assignments (with corresponding loss of pebbles and overcorrections), and a blue slip in music.
Why, you ask?
A few reasons. First, she feels the excitement and anticipation that every one else feels and doesn't know how to manage it. Second, she has terrible anxiety about whether or not she's been "good," despite my constant reassurances that she is always "good" even if she sometimes makes poor choices. I just scheduled a custom text message for Saturday so that Santa can assure her directly that she actually is on his good list this year. Third, school makes her nuts this time of year. Everyone's wound up or worn out. Teachers allow a certain level of frenzy that is somewhat greater than the average off-season frenzy because the know the children are SO excited. That was my FAVORITE thing about school at Christmastime as a kid; yours, too, I bet. Watch a filmstrip instead of do a worksheet? You bet! (Did I just date myself?) The teachers let the frenzy go for awhile and then rein it in with a class "I know we're all excited, but we still have work to do" "chat." That settles neurotypical kids down. Not an Aspie. An Aspie knows that s/he got away with the frenzy before said "chat" so s/he believes that frenzy is still permissible as it was prior-"chat" and is now confused as to why frenzy is no longer permissible.
This year, I am actually having fun, I must say. I did a LOT of planning and work months ago to allow myself the freedom to enjoy the season this year. Moreover, now that she's with a teacher for the ENTIRE day who gets autism and all things 4A, I can relax and know that we're on behaviorally solid and consistent ground. So, firm at school, firm here, I know we aren't making a mess that we will have to clean up post-holiday. Instead, we can just keep toeing the line and know that this will calm come January.
And, I think she will do much better on Christmas day itself this year. She's been handling the advent countdown activity each day beautifully, even though it's unpredictable, with a new fun to-do each day (how the neurotypicals in this house love that surprise each day!). I have worked really hard, following the lessons that I learned last year, to make Christmas morning drama and tear free. So, we've been hangin' tough over here.
Not going so smooth over there for you? Here are a few more holiday helpers to the rescue, both for those living with and without autism.
Holiday helpers for those of you living with ASD or other differences/challenges
(1) A list of helpful hints to get through the holidays from the Autism Society
(2) A social story about handling the holiday break that you can purchase and customize from Sandbox Learning
(3) Holiday tips for families living with different/special needs
Holiday helpers for everyone
(a) Take a lights tour and picnic around town
This makes a weekly appearance in our advent activity countdown; we've been doing it for years. The kids LOVE it! We do an around-town lights tour in our jammies. Sometimes we get drive-thru supper to eat while we gander. Sometimes we just take popcorn. Sometimes we get a drive-thru ice cream cone. On nights that we do this, we do showers and baths right off the bus, getting right into jammies. We wrap up homework and supper (if we aren't getting drive-thru) by 5pm with an ETD of 5:30 pm. We pick a different neighborhood or two each time, and we always vote for our favorite, doing one last drive-by of the best of the night before heading home around 6:30. This makes for a super fun night for them and a super easy evening for me. That, friends, is what we call in the mommy biz a "win-win."
(b) Have a tree-side picnic
We always have a picnic by tree-light on the evening of the day that we've decorated our tree. They love this so much that it's now a weekly December activity. We usually order in pizza or make our own brown bag lunches. Showers, homework, and jammies are accomplished before supper, and we then dine tree-side with only the light from the tree to guide us. 4Daddy and I have been known to ship them in there and have a date night by ourselves in the kitchen while they're dining in the living room. To eat a meal in relative peace and quiet; it's delicious in more ways than one--try it and see.
(c) More homemade gift ideas
Here are a few more that we've done this year, in case you still need ideas. Can't post pics, sorry, because they're hidden, awaiting wrapping paper on 12/22, which is the day in our advent activity countdown that the kids are scheduled to wrap their gifts to each other.
Make a sock puppet for a sibling. This was entirely 4B's idea. He picked the sock out of the lost pile, picked the buttons and felt and yarn, and he even helped with the hand sewing. 4C is going to squeal with delight at this one!
Make and bling a figurine. 4C was desperate to make a snowman for 4A this year, for some reason. I think it really came down to her intense yearning to pillage the yard for sticks in her jammies and slippers, actually. Model Magic works a million times better for little hands than Sculpey or clay. You can paint the dried product (after two or three days of drying) with poster paint or acrylics; we've even used Sharpies. You can make air-dry clay, too; just Google.
Bling her/his initial. We stalked a paper mache over-sized first letter of 4D's name. 4C painted it with acrylic paint and doused with glitter. A LOT of glitter. Glitter makes everything cooler for that kidl
(d) Write letters to Santa on custom-made stationery
Another one of our advent countdown activities is writing a letter to Santa. The kids design custom writing paper here. Free and fun.
(e) Make a holiday trail mix
Yet another advent countdown activity fav is the making of a weekly holiday trail mix to use in our bagged lunches or for happy hour (aka off-the-bus snack; sans booze, unfortunately). A popcorn/pretzel/cereal combo always makes the best trail mix base, but I buy holiday marshmallows, crap cereal that I would never otherwise bring into this house, red and green M&Ms, etc. Each kid adds one cup of her/his fav to the underlying popcorn/pretzel/Crispix base, and we've got Easy Street snacks and lunches for the week. I scheduled this one for our busiest night of the week because it's fast and easy.
(f) Still shopping? Link up through Autism Speaks portal and give the gift of autism advocacy while you shop.