Family gatherings and autism do not necessarily go hand in hand. For one, we are completely off any sort of routine. And, we are scrambling on Turkey Day to find something for little junior to eat since we all know he won't even begin to touch anything on the buffet line. I think one year I ended up feeding Liam peanut butter crackers. Just hand over the "Mom of the Year" plaque for that one. Oh, and he probably ate all of the Sister Schubert rolls too! Guys, there's totally like 5 grams of protein in one of those six pack of crackers, right?
Honestly, I am grateful I have a family of which I can let my hair down. My precious Grandmother let go of the fact that Liam wasn't going to eat any veggies a long time ago, and things have been pretty smooth ever since. My family also gets quite the kick out of him like I do. They love quizzing him on everyone's birthdays and birth years. And, this year, they set up a basketball goal that allowed him to 'dunk' away any anxiety that may have crept up with all the people that were there.
|Papa Walker- Warning: He is always looking for free hugs!|
|'Gran' Walker- isn't she cute?|
And, having understanding family members is key!
If you are one of the millions of immediate families that have autism in your clan, being a sympathetic person can be a lifesaver during the holidays. These parents do not need lectures or suggestions. They just need a safe place that they can take their child and let him/her be whomever they need to be.
Sometimes this is the hardest part! We all have expectations for our children and family members. We want our kids to act a certain way when they open a gift, or to be nice to someone they hardly know. ("ooohhhh, say thank you for such a nice gift" or "give aunt so-and-so a hug") But many times our kids don't want to be touched. Or, they may announce "Mom, she got me the same gift that you got me last year!!"
****head in hands****sigh!****
|This is a portion of my crazy family from 2009. Again, 'fun' in dysfunction.|
The best moments are when everyone just kind of happily ignores the rude comments or the freak outs. Or, even better, looks at you and says, "hey, I got this!", and takes your little one out to shoot hoops.
And, as parents, we need to be better about asking for what we need. Our family members cannot read our minds. And, if leaving a few minutes after dinner to go home is what is better for you, then do it. Or, if stopping by KFC on the way in to bring a bucket of chicken because turkey and dressing is NOT on the short list of foods they eat, then let the Colonel in.
Communication is everything, and once people understand what you are going through and what is most helpful for the family unit-- folks begin to get on board to help!!
This year, I had to drive from Tennessee to Florida and back up to two different cities in Alabama somewhere in between. As Liam was kicking my seat and backseat driving--("Mom, why are you going slow???" "I will freak out if you let Grandmama beat us!!") I actually thought to myself, "you know, if Liam were not in my life, it would be so boring!"
Yes, I would have more peaceful road trips and less gnashing of teeth, but I wouldn't have his light.
"Liam, you light up my life, do you know that?"
"Yeah, I know."
Of course, he does.