Our alternative Christmas dinner I’m certainly not the first person to say that Christmas can be a tricky time of year for a person with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Hardy is still getting to grips with the idea of Christmas. He’s excited by it, but at the same time fearful of so many elements of it, not least the idea of Father Christmas landing on the roof (he has a thing about the roof and people being on it!) and him coming into the house. His normal routine is slightly altered too when his brother returns from Uni and his grandparents visit too. It means he’s not our only focus of attention; I’m sure you can imagine how well that goes down! So many things change and people act differently (not to mention the sensory overload) – it’s asking a lot for him to cope with it. We’re also not the first parents who’ve struggles with their ASD child’s diet. Hardy has what is known as a ‘self-imposed restricted diet’. His desire to control his environment extends to his food. He almost never eats hot food and would live pretty much entirely on peanut butter sandwiches, given half a chance. All in all, he eats a narrow variety of foods. I used to find this incredibly stressful until Hardy’s paediatrician pointed out that our desire for variety is a modern concept. Going back in time, humans ate whatever they could find in their local area, and that varied little from one year to the next. Even as recently as Victorian time’s people would live on a very restricted diet – some bread and cheese, with a scrap of meat if you were very lucky. I found this very comforting. We cope by giving him a daily multivitamin and iron supplement, trying to ensure that he’s exposed to healthy foods and by always offering him choice. Adding together the stress of Christmas and the anxiety he associates with food could be a recipe (no pun intended!) for a meltdown of epic proportions. For me though, it’s not a battle worth engaging in. We spend a considerable amount of time ensuring that he has the skills to socially conform, if he chooses to. This is not an occasion where that’s necessary. I don’t mind if he has a Yorkshire pudding, a jam tart, a yoghurt and some raisins for his Christmas meal. If he’s sat at the table with everyone else and, most importantly, is happy, I count that as a success. Christmas is a time to step off the crazy treadmill of everyday life and show people just how much they mean to you. For Hardy, that will be by maintaining normality as much as possible…and pinching the occasional extra cuddle!