an autism journey

Dear Family, Friends, and Community,

Please understand that we may not participate in the festivities of the holidays as you see appropriate. While you are out shopping, attending parties and special events, caroling, ect., we will be at home. We will be keeping our outings to a minimum. We will not be discussing stories of Santa coming down a chimney, and we will not be out shopping with the masses. We will probably not attend the parties we are invited to, and our home will not be elaborately decorated. We may or may not show up at family gatherings, and we may choose to just quietly accept gifts that are given without opening them in front of you.

No, we are not mad at anyone. We are not having family problems or trying make a statement on the commercialism of Christmas. We are not ignoring the holidays. As a matter of fact, Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year. We are not against Santa or gift giving. We are not anti social or trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. We do however, have a child with autism.

To a child with autism, the holidays can easily become a nightmare. We want our child to know how special this time of year is and be able to enjoy it in a way that suits him best. The lights, the sounds, the changes, the crowds, it can be overly stimulating to a child like him, whose sensory system is already out of control. He doesn’t understand stories of a stranger coming into our home bringing gifts. He doesn’t function well with a lot of changes. What most of you may take for granted is not easy for him.

We will indeed be celebrating. It may be simple and quiet, but it will be just as important to us as it is to you. Stories of Santa will be replaced with stories of the birth of a very special baby. Gifts will be exchanged quietly and may not all be opened at once. That will be ok with us. We will focus on family and the significance of the holiday.

So please be understanding. We love your invites…. Don’t stop including us. Just understand if we need to say no.  Let us know that you want us there, but tell us you are ok if we aren’t. You may not always understand the choices we make, but assume there is a reason and know that we are doing what is best for our son. We want to see all of you, but we may need to see you in smaller, more casual groupings.

Please understand that families like ours may need to do things a little different. That does not make it better or worse, just different.  As you go about your festivities, don’t judge that child screaming at the store or crying at the special church service. Don’t assume they are misbehaving, instead respond with compassion. This holiday season,  if you take the time to truly reach out to a child with autism, you might find the biggest blessing of all. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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Comments on: "Autism and the Holidays: a Request for Understanding" (3)

  1. I am part of the 4 Paws family and was just wondering if I could copy your beautifully worded letter to provide to those who just don’t understand my family’s situation? Would you also mind if I shared it with my son’s therapist to share with other families looking for ways to explain their refusals or absence during the holidays?

  2. Masons's mom said:

    Thank you so much for this post. This sums up every bit of the struggle with holidays our family has. Nothing will ever be the same when you have a child with Autism and EPECIALLY not the holidays! Nice for other people see this and hopefully have some understanding and compassion. Holiday times are a real struggle!!!

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