Christmas has always been a magical time for my family. My mum always made so much effort with her four children growing up and it was always our favourite time of the year. So, when I fell pregnant with my son I was excited to keep the tradition going and make Christmas as magical for my boy as I could. He didn’t understand his first two Christmases, being so young, then when he reached his third Christmas – he was already on the pathway panel for a diagnosis of autism. Bowie hated the sound of presents being unwrapped and used to get quite distressed, he was diagnosed with ASD by his fourth Christmas and it broke my heart that he didn’t understand what Christmas was about, and didn’t cope well with the change. But when Bowie reached his fifth Christmas we saw change.

On his fifth Christmas, Bowie opened his presents and he actually enjoyed it. I felt like we were finally starting to break through, it was the first Christmas we could enjoy as a family. He helped others open their presents and showed interest and excitement, it was beautiful to watch.

The only downside was that I put my decorations up too early. He built up mountains of anxiety wondering when the day would come that Christmas would arrive. Bowie has no concept of dates and times so he woke up every morning asking one word – ‘Christmas?’ in which I had to reply, ‘Not today baby.’ This caused big levels of distress, and I certainly learned my lesson and vowed that the next year would be different. I guess I got swept up in the idea that that year might be the first year he’ll understand, and he did, but the build-up was simply too much for him.

So, this year my decorations will go up a few weeks before Christmas as I know he can handle a few weeks. We can enjoy colouring Christmas pictures together and watching ‘Polar Express’, which he loves, because of the train. This year saw his sixth birthday and he handled his birthday extremely well, I was so proud of him, so I have high hopes for this Christmas. But no matter how this Christmas plays out, myself, my partner and our family will be there to comfort him and guide him through.

All we can do is take each year as it comes and deal with the situation as it arises. I never give up hope, and I refuse to believe that autism can strip my child of enjoying the magic of Christmas. Instead of Marvel Superhero figures, he may receive a sensory box full of fidget toys. Or he may receive old school ‘Brio’ trains that were released in the 80’s because he loves to collect them. No matter what he receives, he has a loving family around him that will take Christmas at Bowie’s pace, something we like to call ‘an autism friendly Christmas.’

Fay is an autism parent to son Bowie, four years old. She is an avid campaigner/activist for autism awareness and has her own foundation 'Awareness For Autism' raising awareness and supporting families living with the disorder. Through her campaigning and awareness Fay was nominated for 'Most Inspirational Volunteer of The Year' award at The NAS's 2016 'Autism Professional Awards'.