The festive season can be very exciting and full of joy for many, but sometimes it can be a stressful and anxious time for your autistic brother or sister. So much is happening during this time – just think of all the new visitors that might come to your house, the bright lights, the hustle and bustle of it all, the socialising, the crowds, the smells, the loss of routine. All of this and more might lead to your sibling feeling overwhelmed.
This article hopes to explain why Christmas may not feel like lots of fun for everyone in your family, why that is okay and how you can be a SUPER sibling this holiday season.
Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Much…
If you think about it – we experience a lot of new sensory experiences during the festive season that we would not usually experience throughout the year. Quite suddenly when December comes around, we are surrounded by bright lights, strong smells and loud noises! A sibling who experiences the world differently may find all of these overwhelming.
Although, all of these new additions can be very exciting for you, your sibling may not feel the same. They may feel very anxious and lost and just want these things to return to how they were before.
If your sibling feels overwhelmed, they might need to take a break and go to a quiet place that helps make them feel happy and safe again. This is okay as it helps them to cope with all the changes that comes with all the festive celebrations.
During the festive period, we might see a lot of people in our extended families that we would not usually see on a regular basis. There might be times where we go to new places to meet up with our grandparents, uncles/aunties, and cousins. Your autistic sibling may find these gathering stressful. They might need to use their ear-defenders and/or bring their comfort toys/items. Sometimes, your family members may come to the house unexpectedly and this might upset your brother and/or sister.
Routines = Safety, Comfort & Security.
Routines can be very important to autistic people. You may notice that around the festive season, sometimes things will happen unexpectedly, and routines may be broken.
This might be upsetting for your autistic sibling. Your family may choose to introduce some changes slowly.
You may notice that your friends in school are doing things that you wish you could do. Their house may be covered in flashing lights, their families may throw huge parties on Christmas day that you wish your own family could have. You might wish that you could stay longer at your grandparents’ house. You may even sometimes feel that your thoughts about Christmas do not matter.
It is okay and normal to have these thoughts.
Maybe you could have your own special day out with your family during the holidays where you go to that panto. Maybe you want your brother and/or sister to go so you could go at a quieter time such as a matinee show. Maybe your family could all have dinner together at a time when the restaurant isn’t busy. Maybe your bedroom could be decorated the way you want it to be. It is likely that your parent, or who looks after you, knows that Christmas feels different to maybe how you would like it. Saying this to them is not bad or mean. It is okay to speak with them about how it makes you feel, and what might help. It is important to remember, families celebrate Christmas in different ways, some don’t celebrate it at all and everyone does it in their way because every family is unique. And that’s what makes family, special.