Celebrating an autism friendly, ‘COVID-normal’ Christmas
With Christmas fast approaching this year’s holiday season is going to be unlike any other as we head towards a ‘COVID-normal’ Christmas.
For children, and adults with autism, Christmas can be a challenging time of the year for so many different reasons. It can be quite overwhelming for the senses with so much noise and flashing lights, particularly in places like shopping centres.
One thing is for sure; this year’s photos with Santa will look very different from previous years, or will be skipped altogether for some families. Santa photos can often be difficult for children with autism. There are queues of people, bright lights, loud noises and strange men with beards who want you to sit on their lap. This year offers parents of autistic children a unique opportunity to find alternative options to the traditional shopping centre Santa photo with many virtual options available.
Family gatherings may look a little different this year also. Again, perhaps not such a bad thing for those with autism who struggle to deal with lots of people all at once. Large gatherings with relatives who love to kiss, hug and squeeze cheeks will need to tone down a little bit this year with a limit to the number of people allowed in your home. I hear a sigh of relief from those of you who hate it when Great Aunt Betty gets up in your personal space!
If you take a holiday over the Christmas period, that too is most likely going to look very different this year. There will be density limits as we eat out, or when we gather in public spaces such as cafes and restaurants. Not such a bad thing for those with autism who detest crowds of people and would probably much prefer to stay home anyway.
Shopping Centres will also be a little different this year as so many of us have adapted to shopping online or ‘click and collect’ options, meaning centres might be quieter with less crowds and less Christmas madness and mayhem. I’m sure we’ll all find a difference with density limits in stores meaning that shops won’t be packed like they used to and people will have to line up 1.5 meters apart and wait their turn to enter. Mind you, you don’t need to have autism to hate crowds and noise, that’s for sure.
Since the dreaded virus hit our shores in February this year, our lives have changed in so many ways. If all continues to go well for us Aussies, this Christmas will almost seem ‘normal’ for many of us. The main thing that will be different is, this year, many of us will appreciate what we have so much more. I don’t mean that in terms of our possessions, but in terms of who we have around us. We will appreciate spending time with our family and loved ones more than ever.
As much as most of us will enjoy spending the joyous occasion with loved ones, and many of us will make the most out of the lead up to the big day, we must keep in mind our autistic family members and friends. Some of whom will struggle with their emotions throughout this time of the year, possibly even more than normal due to the fact that, after being in lockdown for the better part of 2020, will be finding it more difficult than others to cope with going back to normal, everyday life.
This year, as you celebrate the magic of Christmas, spare a thought to those in the community who may be feeling more anxiety rather than excitement for the season.
Until next time, Merry Christmas everyone and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2021.
SASI Guest Parent Blogger
Image courtesy of pixabay.com