Calm in a Storm
Holiday season can be a whirlwind: Shopping, exchanging gifts, interacting with friends and family, making special foods, finishing end of the year tasks.
This could overwhelm anyone, but can be particularly disorienting for many on the autism spectrum. Our severely autistic son searches for Christmas videos on YouTube every November. He clearly senses that the holidays are coming and seems to look forward to it.
But once the Christmas tree and decorations go up, he repeatedly demands, “Christmas clean up!” We don’t decorate until a day or two before our first holiday dinner guests, because we know Sean’s tolerance is limited.
Changes in the environment and disruptions in the daily routine erode his sense of stability. We worry that Sean will have a meltdown while guests are visiting if he reaches the end of his tether with too many lights, too many new smells, too many people.
A special needs nutrition and health specialist posted in a holiday message that Christmas trees smell wonderful but can be torture if you have allergies. Scented candles are lovely but not if artificial fragrances knock you off your feet. Flashing lights are magical, but not if you are prone to seizures or other neurological conditions.
This year we got our first artificial tree, didn’t put out any items with artificial fragrances, and made sure not to use the flashing holiday lights.
For the first time ever, Sean hasn’t said “Christmas clean up!” once. Though his OCD escalated because stacks of books and other objects he organizes to calm himself are temporarily cleaned up, and he did have a couple of mini meltdowns after guests left, when visitors were here, he ate together and then enjoyed quiet video time.
Small tweaks in our environment and routine can make a huge difference in how we handle times that feel challenging.
May we all find small changes that make life less stressful even when our routines are disrupted. Happy trails in the new year!
This week’s HikingAutism Hike Notes from the archives is Fort Funston Upper Trails, a dog-friendly walking area with stunning ocean views and the treat of watching hang gliders soar.
This week’s Hike Notes from the Archives:
(Original Hike Notes 95): Fort Funston Upper Trails
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