For weeks now I have been daring to hope that this years Christmas and festive season would be a happy one, full of good memories, love and laughter, instead of the stress and heartbreak of the previous two. I have been silently praying that autism wasn’t going to get in the way or spoil things, all of us over the last year have invested so much time, energy, patience and love in helping Lachlan to learn to cope and live in our world, had we come far enough though?
Christmas is sensory nightmare for children with autism and sensory processing disorder; for a month, routine goes out the window, both at home and in nursery / school as all the preparation for Christmas begins, there are rehearsals for concerts, lights and decorations everywhere, sights and smells that can only be found at Christmas, there are the concerts of siblings to attend, friends and relatives you haven’t seen since last Christmas suddenly reappear, even just the excitement of others can be all too much for our sensitive little ones.
This year we decided that as far as possible we were going to join in the festivities as a family, all of us together, that meant Lachlan went to his sisters school fare, the school concert, had a trip to meet Santa, took part in his Playgroup’s nativity play, went to a Christmas party, attended church on Christmas Eve, got up with his siblings on Christmas morning and as much as possible joined in Christmas Day.
I bought Lachlan a little playmobil 123 nativity set and Santa and sleigh set, we looked at Christmas themed books, reading the stories, singing Carols and we all played with Lachlan’s Christmas toys with him, demonstrating and role playing, we bought Lachlan a beautiful wooden Christmas tree advent calendar where each day you added a bauble to the tree on the lead up to Christmas. We all wanted to try and help Lachlan make sense of it all.
We had no expectations of Lachlan, if he wanted to blank out Christmas then that was fine with us, we just wanted to give him the opportunity to join in as much or as little as he was happy with.
The school fare was all too much, the rest I am delighted to say were all a success, admittedly some more so than others, Lachlan enjoyed both the school concert and church service but was rather noisy through both, he did brilliantly on his visit to Santa even managing to tell Santa that he wanted a Fire Engine for Christmas and Christmas Day was more magical than I could ever have hoped for.
On Christmas morning we all got up at 10.00am, Lachlan stopped dead on the stairs when his eyes caught site of all the presents on the couch below, his face full of wonder, a tiny little voice whispered the word “presents”.
I always try to get the children to open up one present at a time and they take it in turns, we let Hamish and Alex begin and encouraged Lachlan to take his turn, he was not too sure to begin with and on Christmas morning only a few presents were opened by Lachlan, partly because he got as far as opening his Fire Engine and Fire Station and then played happily with them for the next couple of hours totally engrossed with his new toys.
We were having family over for Christmas dinner, for Lachlan this was going to be the next big challenge of the day, yes he knew all those coming very well but to have them all over all at once was something we had never done before. For Lachlan this was going to be an invasion of his space of epic proportions!
Lachlan took it all in his stride, he did cling a little when our guests first arrived but soon was back to playing happily with his new toys, we had decided as we were not eating at Lachlan’s usual tea time that we would eat and leave Lachlan to enjoy his toys in peace. There was a magical moment after we sat down to eat when Lachlan appeared in the kitchen, he took up a chair beside Alex and sat there happily eating a bowl of rice cakes and crisps while we ate Christmas dinner, it made me so happy that Lachlan chose to join us.
After our meal it was time to exchange gifts, Lachlan took the lead from everyone else and joined in opening all his presents, it was lovely to see his face light up when he found in each parcel a gift he liked, I was touched when Lachlan thanked everyone for his gifts too, understanding who his presents had come from, there was none of the fear or upset that presents had brought last year or the year before, all presents were opened on Christmas Day unlike last year where we finally gave in and opened gifts for Lachlan at the end of January.
At the end of the evening Lachlan seemed truly disappointed when everyone went home. Lachlan happily played on with is toys until becoming sleepy around 11.00pm, when he fell asleep cuddled into me, a happy contented little boy.
For us all I think this Christmas will always be held in our hearts and memories as Lachlan’s first Christmas.