Saturday, 24 December 2011

Festive Challenges and Autism Tips

Chrissy aged 9 with her sister, Alex, years before she was diagnosed with autism

Last Christmas was very difficult for Chrissy. The self-injurious outbursts kicked off on Christmas Eve then reached a peak during Christmas Day. She had 8 major outburts in 24 hours - including a hair-raisingly violent one during our 2-hour drive to her aunt's. (Her sister and I arrived in tears). Chrissy fluctuated between full-on screaming, rolling around on the floor and self-injuring, and being out of it. It was, as you can imagine, very disruptive & distressing for Chrissy herself & the 13 other family members around her. Because she was stripping off, we had to keep her hidden from her younger cousins' view - an almost impossible task.

Previous Christmases have been more Jeckyll & Hyde than last year's - outbursts interspersed with lovely times rather than lethargy. The picture above shows Chrissy enjoying herself but on & off throughout that day she had been clawing at her face & around her eyes. At one point, Ian had taken her outside in the cold & sat quietly with her for a while to calm her down & give everyone respite. Not all Christmases have been so difficult. Chrissy's autism fluctuates unpredictably like her moods, and appears to have got more severe with age.

We're hosting Christmas this year, which will make it easier to minimise triggers & manage outbursts. We'll celebrate Christmas around Chrissy & she can choose which parts to join in with. I won't involve her in the present-opening scrum, nor will I invite her to join us for Christmas dinner. Chrissy time is slower than our time. Once she's figured out that there's a feast at her disposal, she'll wolf down her meal in peace long after we've cleared the table. We'll also try some National Autistic Society tips to support The Diva through her festive challenges. Wish us luck!

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  1. Jane, I admire the fact that despite the challenges, you continue to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, rather than just hibernating and wishing for it all to go away! I hope that this Christmas has been more successful and less stressful than previous years- it sounds as though you have it all under control!

  2. Again, thank you LittleMamma. We were just very very lucky that Chrissy was able to join in & stay relatively calm on Christmas Day & the 28th when all the family visited. Her mood has continued to be unpredictable ever since. My plans were by no means foolproof! If she had decided to take to the floor, scream & strip off in the lounge we would have had to evacuate everyone into other rooms as we did last year. Everyone knew it was a possibility so at least I wouldn't have had to explain & apologise! x