Christmas is the season for spending time with family, as well as reflection of the past year's highs and lows. It's also the time for gift giving. It seems that every day, my son comes home with a new present from school. Sometimes it's a gift from students, sometimes teachers, but with a present wrapped in special paper with a shiny bow comes the question, "Can I open this now?" Of course we say "Not until Christmas." As those of us with special kids know, all it takes is something like this to set the tone for the rest of the day.
I've read a few blogs that have discussed gift giving with Asperger's and it seems every parent has different gift ideas and each blog mentions different issues with giving gifts to kids with Asperger's or autism. In this blog I'm going to discuss some of our personal issues in regards to the holidays.
It seems, for our family anyway, the holiday season is full of surprises. We do have some family that lives close to us, but we also have family that lives out of town. This can make get togethers, much more difficult. If there's bad weather and relatives can't come to visit, then preparing Jacob for the stress can be a little more tricky if we have to reschedule. If we plan a family dinner, we can generally prep Jacob for the situation. We'll tell him days in advance that on this given day, there will be lots of people in the house. Then we tell Jacob about how everyone is excited to see him, so he isn't as overwhelmed. But if plans fall through, then all the prep work is for nothing. Because if the dinner is on a different day than we planned, forget it. Jacob will eventually have an outburst during the get together.
As he's gotten older, Jacob has improved greatly. We don't have to explain every detail anymore. We don't have to say that dinner will be on this Saturday at 5pm, nor do we have to list everyone that will be attending. Now we can just wing it, so to speak, and deal with the outbursts as they come, which makes the holidays a lot less stressful. Jacob however still doesn't like all the attention. When he hears someone say things like "Look how big you are" or "You're so cute", he seems to withdraw from the whole situation. I've personally seen Jacob spend a couple hours in his room reading a book when we have dinner. Adults seem to understand, but the other children in our family don't quite get it. After all, they drove a long way to get here and once they're here, Jacob doesn't want to see them. But as kids gets older they too learn that Jacob will come see them, only when he's ready.
Then there's gift giving. When we ask Jacob "What do you want for Christmas?" Jacob replies "Whatever is in the presents." Or "Whatever Santa brings me." So it's up to us to watch and observe Jacob to get an idea on what to get him.
Lately Jacob has been into sports, so we can get him apparel with his favourite teams logo on it. Jacob also love the Nintendo DS, so we can always get him a new game. We just hope he'll play it. In previous years, Jacob has received a pile of toys. He's the youngest child in the family, so you know he gets spoiled every Christmas. Unfortunately, Jacob has a habit of not opening the toys he received as gifts. He's received in the past, Alphie the Robot, Paper Jamz guitar and drums, movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Monsters vs Aliens, none of which he's even opened or watched.
What makes the situation worse, is that we as parents only have a few good gift ideas. So, when a relative says "Pick something up that Jacob wants, for me." We just get frustrated. How can we get something he wants, for you, when we don't know what to get either?
One thing Jacob does enjoy is money. Now I know what people are going to say, but we don't mean money like you're thinking. Jacob doesn't understand commerce at all. He's never bought anything before. So when we tell someone to give him money, we then explain that he likes coins. If you took 10 dollars and had all different types of coins, Jacob would look at each one individually, sorting them by size and colour or animal. In Canada, we have a couple extra coins, so there's a little extra exploration. Keeping that in mind, we have now found a toy that Jacob loves and will spend actual time playing with. He loves Mighty Beans. He probably has 100 of them. He'll look at each one, sort them by colour or by set. Luckily for us you can get a pack of 6 at almost any Dollar Store out there. Thankfully, Jacob is rather tidy, so we don't have to worry about stepping on one.
So now, when family or friends ask us what Jacob wants, we tell them coins or clothes. There's nothing worse than telling a relative that Jacob still hasn't opened that toy from last Christmas. If there's a toy he wants, we will get it ourselves. If Jacob doesn't open a toy from us, we understand. We know how special Jacob is and we want the holiday to be a happy time for him. After all, isn't this holiday for the kids anyway?
If you have any ideas about what to get a child with Asperger's, please comment as we're always open to new ideas. Thanks everyone and we hope you have a happy holiday.
WELCOME TO JIM'S AUTISM BLOG
Hi everyone and thanks for visiting our blog. My wife and I created this blog to chronicle our experience while raising a son with Asperger's syndrome. Since our son was diagnosed with an ASD at age 5, we've had a lot of questions. Lucky for us we have a great support network in place. And our blog gives us an opportunity to share what we've learned with our readers. We hope you find our blog informative and interesting. Thanks again for visiting.
"It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential." Dr Hans Asperger 1906-1980