Even though our extended family understands that Little Man has FASD they still just do not get what that means some times. Holidays are almost always one of them. Some things that children (and adults) look forward to with pleasure all year are absolute torture for a child who has neurological differences effecting his sensory processing and emotional regulation. So there are things we just don’t do – no matter how much begging we get from the family and no matter how mean they think we are over it. For example we will not be:
Riding the polar express – For neuro typical children it’s a magical one hour train ride where they read the story book aloud, serve hot cocoa, and get to meet Santa. For our son its 60 minutes of not being able to sort out the story from all the other noises, too many people he doesn’t know all crowded too close to him, a treat everyone else can have but him (allergy to chocolate), and way too long a time spent in a line for way too short a time spent with “The MAN”. Then inevitable scene as we drag him away from Santa so someone else can have their turn. No thanks – we will stay home and watch the movie together eating hot air popped popcorn with plenty of real melted butter ( a treat he can have).
Doing “Elf on the Shelf” – most kids are mature enough by 6 years old to control their impulse to scale the side of the refrigerator to get to the “elf”. My son? Not yet. Not to mention the fact that he thinks they are scary looking.
Caroling – it takes little man a very long time to learn the words to a song due to his slower than average auditory processing. He can and once he has memorized one he never forgets it. But getting him to sing them in front of people is very hard if not impossible – even people he knows well. So a command performance is just not gonna happen. We do sing together - but usually in the car. Since no one is looking at him there he is happy singing along with his favorite CD of Christmas songs. And we go see the Nutcracker. He is enthralled and soothed by classical music and as long as we sit in the back we can slip out without disturbing others if for some reason he cannot make it through the whole performance.
Midnight Mass – Messing with the schedule is always a major no no. With all the other unusual stuff going on (no school, Christmas tree and lights at the house, people stopping by) there is no way I’m keeping him up 4 hours after his usual bed time. The church we attend has a 5 PM service. We will be going to that. Little man is even going to be in the nativity play. I figure there was probably at least one shepherd at the real event that looked sort of confused and out of it so he’ll be authentic.
Displaying wrapped gifts from the family under the tree before Christmas morning – I’m sorry, I think that is mean for all children. For mine it is a temptation that is totally beyond his ability to resist. Wrapped gifts stay tucked away until after he is a sleep Christmas eve.
Big Family Christmas parties – these are way to over stimulating for Little Man. We go when we cannot avoid it but I would so prefer not to. There is always food he cannot have and that we have to watch to be sure he doesn’t get into, too much noise, and too many people. He doesn’t enjoy them and usually ends up hiding in a corner or under a table. And gift time almost always ends in some kind of tantrum – large or small, because he wants what someone else has. I like it when we can manage smaller groups best. Little Man can actually enjoy those.
I’m sure that other families have other cherished traditions that we could not participate in but these are the ones that seem to irk mine the most. Christmas is supposed to be magical and fun for kids. There are certain things I just have to do differently to make sure it is for mine.