Managing Expectations Christmas time in an autism house is always interesting, maybe the autistic person hates change so decorations are a no-no. Maybe Christmas build up at home and school causes violent meltdowns? Whatever the triggers I find that expectations need to be managed first before anything else…the expectations of us, parents and caregivers. In my house for instance B (5 and a half with severe non verbal autism) takes no notice of Christmas at all and I’m really not exaggerating. On Christmas morning she will walk into the lounge, straight through piles of presents and climb onto the sofa with her ipad and not notice anything unusual. It’s almost as though wrapping paper acts as an invisibility cloak masking the festivities from her. B really struggles with new toys, games, apps etc. so I always pray people don’t buy her many toys as it can take her months to notice them let alone touch them. Some people might feel upset that their child doesn’t take part in Christmas, however, for me I’d think it a Christmas miracle if she opened a present or ate any element of a Christmas dinner…but she doesn’t and that’s fine. She is happy. It’s ok for her not follow the path we expect her to walk. L on the other hand (almost 4 with high functioning Autism) has been asking me on and off since August is it Christmas? This is more challenging to manage as it’s just tiring saying no all the time, especially as his birthday is 4 days before Christmas. It’s really difficult for me and everyone else not to over compensate with him as he knows the whole deal when it comes to getting presents. After all we’re so used to presents being ignored that now it’s hard not to go crazy with the super Christmas loving child. However, give this boy something he doesn’t like or hasn’t asked for and he will tell you. I think it’s funny, others can be less impressed. In my mind if you know L and his absolutely literal world he lives in then you won’t be surprised it is exactly to be expected. So in short, do what your kids love. Remember that your pre-designed ideas of Christmas can change, especially if it saved your family an awful of drama on what should be the best of days. Here are the letters my children would write, I’m sure, if they had the chance. Dear Santa, Please don't bring me too many presents, I don't really like new things. If you insist on the gifts then please don't wrap them, I don't like to rip the paper and...well I just won't open them. Please don't buy me 'age appropriate' toys, or dolls, or anything else 'most five year old girls' like. Maybe talk to Mama about the specifics (she knows the specifics.) Please let my family know that I want chicken dippers and Micro-chips for my Christmas dinner, anything else will upset me and leave me hungry. Can you also let my family know that I plan to play with my iPad all day until the battery runs out, I'm not being anti-social or rude I'm having my best kind of Christmas. Thank you B Dear Father Christmas, I have been very good and would like an Octonauts toy and a Fire Flynn train from Thomas and friends. If you give me a present I didn't ask for and I don't like it, please don't be upset if I tell you so or just discard it...I made a list, going off plan is risky. Please tell my family that I may or may not want to eat a Christmas dinner depending on my mood. I eat roast dinners all the time at school but sometimes struggle to eat the same foods at home. I'd also quite like a speedy Spencer train. I think I'd like it better if you just magic my presents in the house as I think the idea of you coming in the house is a bit scary. Thank you very much, please L Lauren is a single Mum to two very different children on the autism spectrum age 5 and 3. She also runs the Square Peg Foundation supporting and empowering children with disabilities. The family were helped by Family Fund last year with a fantastic break to Peppa Pig World. Head over to Women With Baby to read more about Lauren and her family.