The holidays can be so stressful. For a typical family, you have to deal with buying and wrapping gifts, teacher gifts, decorating, baking, scheduling holiday parties and so much more. In our family, we have all that ... with a twist.
What do you buy for a non-verbal 14 year old who loves to climb and watch videos -- but rarely new videos? He loves opening presents, but rarely gets excited by their contents. What do you buy for an 18 year old who when you ask will give you half a dozen videos but that is about it? He has little concept of the value of money. We have been attempting to teach that over the last year with a debit card and having him pay for his own gas but until you are putting money back into the account, where is the lesson? One year when we asked Joe what he wanted for Christmas he told us "a flashlight". What else? "I really want a flashlight." OH - KAY! To make things more complicated, we have both sets of grandparents still alive (don't get me wrong, that is a nice complication!) and several aunts and uncles who spend more than $5-10 for the kids. They want ideas. Every year, I scramble to come up with something (anything!) creative for them to get on Christmas and rarely do I find anything. This is getting even tougher as Alan gets older. We got him an iPad last year for his birthday so while we might appreciate the iTunes gift cards and he might at a later date appreciate the movies and apps we put on it, he does NOT get into opening gift cards. Sigh.
Teacher gifts are even more fun. When you have a teacher per kid you can do something pretty nice for them. One year I had over 30 teachers for my 2 children!!! This year I have one awesome teacher, 4 paraprofessionals in his class, a class interpreter (?), an ABA coordinator, SLP, OT, PT, Music teacher, Art teacher, PE teacher, computer teacher, favorite babysitter, two bus drivers (he is on a different route each way) and two bus assistants. Gee whiz. Just giving each of them $5 adds up pretty quick. In the past I have made soap, made candles, given them cookies/soup in a jar, made autism awareness scarves and probably a lot of other things I have forgotten. This year I decided to make a photo collage of goofy Alan pictures (climbing on the stairs, swingset, wedged on the top shelf of his closet, stairdiving) and gave them that on a thank you letter. I had several of the people tell me it was their favorite Christmas present ever! It obviously won't work for everyone, but it was a fun idea and I wanted to share it.
Decorating is not that different for us. The nativity set still gets played with but I suspect that happens in many houses where there are young children. We get no help from Alan decorating but Joe is a big help so I guess that one evens out. The same with cooking and baking. As long as I can keep Alan occupied with a video or outside, I can do my cooking and baking. Of course I still have to go outside with Alan during snowfalls to insure that he doesn't stop in the middle of the hill and sit there or run over some younger kid so I dread snow days during December!
Scheduling the holidays is perhaps the worst. Anything where "the whole family is invited" are a disaster. If we take Alan anywhere, one of us has to be watching him constantly. He likes to go "exploring" and loves beds, stairs, balconies and railings. Having a 150+ lb kid jump off an upper bunk during a party is guaranteed to make people jump! God forbid anyone have a dog, because then Joe is going nuts with his fear of dogs -- even little ones, even locked up ones. Of course if we don't take one or both of the boys, we have to get someone to watch them. Special needs babysitters are expensive! Some of that is just because it is usually an adult (not some neighborhood kid) and some of it is because I believe in paying them well when I find one I like! Adults tend to have their own lives so scheduling their availability is not always the simplest thing either. Many times we have had to split up -- DH takes Joe to his side of the family and I take Joe to my side or DH goes stag to work parties. Of course, sometimes this causes problems too. My mom asked me one time if DH didn't like them and people at his work probably think I am a snob. Such is life with the spectrum.
We end up hosting a LOT of holidays. This is actually easier on us as we don't have to schedule babysitters or worry about trying to keep Alan out of beds or reassure Joe that the dog is really nice and won't bother him other than to smell him. Sometimes it gets a bit expensive always buying the food and the drinks, but it probably saves a small fortune in babysitter costs so maybe it is even. The holidays with a twist ...