Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas With An Autistic Champ

From the moment V-Man was born - I called him a champ. 
Now, after a filling dinner (and a new artsy-looking bathroom sink...) and conversation with my friends - I realize that he IS a champ.  He has a wonderful temperament and is just (mostly) always happy to be around my friends noted.
From an outsider's point of view - I am ashamed to say I have never noticed.  Because we're so busy chasing him down from the very top of a high chair he climbed, from pulling down clean laundry off the racks or clip-hanger thing...or from doing this or that...

Anyways, here's how our Christmas may have differed from yours:
  • I don't wrap his presents.  I should note that I didn't wrap them when he was first born because honestly?  What's the point?  He's a newborn...a month and a half old and not only doesn't know what Christmas is - but also doesn't care. :)
    • He's not at the age (mentally) where he cares about wrapping paper, ribbons or ripping them off in excitement.  His gifts were in plain sight on the sofa in the corner and not wrapped.  He occasionally notices the paper and wants to shred it.  That's about it.
  • I try to find gifts that would tickle his senses and he'd find interesting.  Like magnets, or GAK (haven't opened it yet) and this year I got him a "rain stick"...but with this said, I also try to not take it to heart that it takes him a few days (sometimes weeks) to get interested in a gift I bought him at Christmas time.
  • V-Man does not give two stinks about the latest video game, toy, gadget etc.  or Christmas itself.  Whenever he does show interest, throughout the year about some sort of toy or book that's acceptable for his age - I'll happily buy it (within reason).  We're trying to save up to buy him an iPad - as I think he can really benefit from one (with a military-style protective case of course) - but we'll see.
  • We don't have a (large or real) Christmas tree.  I drew it on for the last couple of years with Crayola Window Markers.  This year, I set up the foot-tall fake tree and only put ornaments on it that aren't breakable and definitely no lights.  After breakfast, he grabbed the whole tree and presented it to SH (Super Hubby).  By 10am it was on a shelf up high in the kitchen.
  • I don't decorate a lot.  I hang stockings on the 24th when the children are asleep and try to take photos of them with their new Christmas pajamas from the night before and then again on Christmas morning.  I visualize all the time and money into decorating being destroyed when he notices them eventually and decides to rip them down.
    • I especially don't even tack up Christmas cards we've received - they're a personal favourite of his.  And his new thing is trying to shove things down the radiator...
  • We don't have Elf on the Shelf...or advent calendars.  Can you imagine trying to explain to a child with a bottomless pit for a stomach - why he can't eat all 24 chocolate pieces in one go?  Or why the Elf -tee-hee- pooped peppermint candies in the toilet...or tried to bake etc.?  I can't either.
    • I'm considering learning origami to make boxes for advent calendars next year for all 3 kids...wish me luck.
  • We don't go to church for midnight mass... Well, we never did anyway.  But there have been some nice caroling events at the downtown church that I have enjoyed and heard were fun - but there's no way we could stay in a relatively quiet place for any length of time.
  • We don't visit many people.  It's not that we're anti-social.  Totally not.  Just it's easier to have people come here - where the Champ feels at home and comfortable.
    • It can be hard to Skype because he doesn't sit still for very long.  And our family understands. 
    • Also there's the possibility of our friends having a lovely decorated home and we don't want anything damaged or flat-out destroyed...
  • We avoid crowds of people or Christmas parties...It just means food and he'll usually opt for the cookies, chips and candy/chocolates...and making a mess everywhere.  And fondling people in-appropriately...Wait - is there a way to fondle stranger without offending them? Oh right - if you're a baby. V-Man is 5.
    • Also, he's a runner.  So if he's not interested in something - he's gone.  Also with the boys going to different day-cares - that means only one parent gets to go to A-Man's day-care Christmas party or we just don't go at all.
  • We don't travel or go anywhere exciting.  This is a downright bummer - especially where we don't have family here in Finland to cook our meal for us (I'm totally cool with cooking and deciding on a menu etc.) or in-laws to go to on the other holiday day.  So - we have stayed in our home every year.  We don't even go to Helsinki or Estonia - which isn't terribly far and doesn't require a plane.  We also don't have a car - ah well.  Maybe some day.
    • So we're thrilled and love having friends come to us to share dinner and chit-chat around our table.  Seriously - it's the best fun!
    • He does enjoy sledding - so we try to do that every night before bed time.
  • We don't have family photos together.  I try every Christmas Eve to take a photo of the kids together on the sofa and they all scattered or aren't looking at the camera at the same time...and again Christmas morning with stockings - and it just doesn't work.
  • We don't bother with Santa.  Santa is seen by kids in Finland on Christmas Eve - so the photography set up and long lines don't really happen here.  Occasionally there's Santa in the bigger grocery stores walking around and sometimes sitting down but you have to be lucky to have your own camera with you.  
    • 1.  Line ups are a no-go for the Champ.
    • 2.  Strange man?  He'll probably get dragged away by the Champ, who is ridiculously strong.  Or he'll get fondled by the Champ.  He wouldn't be the first man to get a nipple rub...
    • 3.  In all fairness, our kids don't quite get Christmas or who Santa is - so it's not just the V-Man.  When they're older and if they have the desire and patience to wait to meet the big guy - sure.  I'll do it for them.
  • If the lines will be long - then V-Man stays home.  He despises line ups and my phone battery life isn't the longest for him to watch endless Youtube - so it's just easier for him to stay at home.
  • We don't expect him to sit at the table for the full any length of a meal.  It's impossible to expect that of him.  He did join us and repeatedly left and returned at his leisure and that was fine by me.  Better than trying to keep a child still who doesn't want to be there at all.  
  • We want him to use a spoon or a fork - but it's okay if he eats with his fingers.  Please bear in mind, this is the child that has a sensory overload and also, as of 1.5 years ago - was the pickiest eater.  Thanks to the day-care he's at, which specializes in children with special needs, he is at least willing to try everything.  And when he likes it - nobody's plate is safe.
    • He is trying to use his utensils!  He just needs heavy supervision and constant reminders to try. :)
  • We haven't tried building (or baking) a gingerbread house...or men people to decorate...  It would get devoured by him and us before the decorations came out.
I don't mean for this list to come off as harsh or negative whatsoever.  This is the reality of life with an autistic/mentally challenged child in the family and just thought it might be worth sharing.
So if you have friends in similar situation as us - this is how it is and we don't mean to not visit your lovely decorated home...but it's just a wee bit safer for everyone (and their nerves) if we don't. :)

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