How I manage Christmas with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

A christmas tree with presents beneath

Christmas, the most joyful time of year, is almost upon us! Decorations are up in most houses, presents are being wrapped and turkeys are waiting patiently in freezers all over the country!

But for some people Christmas isn’t so joyful. For Autistic children or even adults, there is too much change, too much expected of them and too much socialising. It can become a very stressful time of year!

I wrote a poem:

As you hang bauballs on the tree,
spare a thought for a child like me.
I don’t like change or things not right,
I’m not so sure about that light!

When the whole family gathers round,
don’t be surprised if I look at the ground.
So many people, it’s hard for me.
I don’t like crowds or noise you see.

When you give me piles of presents,
don’t be surprised if Im not so pleasant.
I like my old toys, my normal things, I like my train and my teddy that sings.

When you’ve been a lovely winner,
at working on the christmas dinner,
I don’t mean to be rude,
if I just cant eat my food.

I love my routine and I like it right,
Christmas is hard and I might fight.
I really don’t mean to offend,
I just wish this Christmas would end!

Ok, so I’m not the best poet, but you get the idea!

So what do I do to make Christmas easier for my son?

I have tried a few different ways of doing Christmas over the years. I’ve taken the children to stay with relatives and had relatives over to see us. One year I even decided to sack Christmas off completely and go to Disneyland. It was actually the most magical and least stressful Christmas I’ve ever had but I can’t afford that every year! In the end I decided on doing the same thing every year.

I have taken the children to stay in a log cabin for the last five Christmas’ and I will be doing the same again this year.

In the run up to Christmas, nothing at home changes. I dont put up a big tree, or decorations. Instead I keep it the same for my son. My daughter has a tiny tree in her room and some paper chains to make it Christmassy for her and we get on with life as normal until the end of term.

Then, on the last day of term, after school, we head off to our log cabin. The great thing is, the cabin is the same every year and it comes pre-decorated with a real tree so it’s meant to be there. The fresh organic Turkey is delivered ready and waiting and all we need to do is unpack presents and put them under the tree. Christmas begins for us when we get to the cabin!

We have a very chilled out Christmas. We spend a lot of time relaxing in the cabin and going in the hot tub which is great for my son as water calms him down. During the day we go out exploring the forest and in the evenings we play games or drink hot chocolate in front of a film. It’s all a very calm way of avoiding the hustle and bustle of Christmas. 

A boy in a hot tub. Inside the window behind is a Christmas tree

I spread Christmas over a couple of days so my son isn’t too overwhelmed. We take two days to do presents. Some years it is Christmas Eve and Christmas day and some years it is Christmas day and Boxing day. If we have most presents on one day then we will have Christmas dinner on the other day.

Father Christmas only brings a stocking each and he very helpfully puts the same things in them every year! There are always new fleecy pyjamas, soft slippers, something chocolate, a small sensory toy and a satsuma. The kids know what to expect and they also know roughly what they will get in their presents from me. I find this helps ease their anxiety.

Its horrible to say but we avoid family gatherings! It’s not because we don’t like family, but more that it can be overwhelming. I find it’s easier for the kids to see people individually, before or after Christmas than all at once and we get far less meltdowns. 

A girl walking through a forest next to a small stream

So that’s how we do Christmas! How do you spend yours? What have you found works for your children? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.  If you would like to read more then feel free to follow my blog or like my Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. You can also find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour1

Published by Autism Kids on Tour - Autism without limits

I have two kids and love to show them the world. We dont let autism limit us in our adventures! I write about our adventures and include tips on how suitable activities were for children with autism. I also write more autism specific posts.

5 thoughts on “How I manage Christmas with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

  1. And why not? Christmas is about traditions and that means family ones that can vary from family to family. It must be so overwhelming for your son as it certainly is for many -the lights drive me nuts (I have Irlen’s I expect although never diagnosed) and make me feel physically sick at times. The log cabin looks gorgeous! Have a lovely Christmas with your lovely family. Xxxx #mondaystumble

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