Christmas and New Year have been fun, but also quite stressful. I think however old you get, or however many strategies you put in to place, this time of year will always be difficult if you are autistic. The amount of change and transition, plus the sensory issues means that Christmas and New Year can`t be anything other than a difficult time. This doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable as well.
For me, I finished my first semester at university, and then had the change, and transition of Christmas and New Year. All of these things together meant that my behaviour, and mood was affected quite severely. I began to have more meltdowns than normal, and these also increased in severity. I don’t think that this is uncommon at all among autistic people. In fact, I think you would struggle to find someone who doesn’t get like this after Christmas, or during Christmas.
Early January can actually be the most difficult time because at least during December there are the positives of Christmas and New Year, so the good comes with the bad. But January can be a pretty miserable month for people anyway – everything goes back to normal. While this can be a positive thing, it is also not the easiest thing to deal with for anybody, let alone somebody with autism. From my point of view it is even stranger as I don’t actually start university again until early February. All my assignments are handed in so it is as if I have transitioned to another stage – it`s kind of a holiday, but not really. I am not complaining about getting so much time off, it is just a little bit odd as I was just getting used to university, and I am sure that in some way this must have contributed to what`s been going on for me.
December is a strange time of year for people with autism and their families. It is very positive and there is a lot of fun to be had – I am not trying to take away from this at all – but I also think it is the most difficult time of year. I have written about why this might be previously, and I am sure everybody reading this will know anyway from personal experience, but for me early January has always been a bit more difficult. It is harder to find the positive edge in all the changes and transitions that are going on, but it is possible. It may be the case that some people are excited to get back to their old routine; may be they want to see friends they`ve not seen for a while? There could be all kinds of positives to the transition back to everyday life, but it can still feel overwhelming.
The other thing to remember is that while meltdowns are not good – and it`s always best to ward them off, or at least resolve them quickly if possible – just because they get worse in January doesn’t mean that they will stay at this level for the rest of the year. Things pass, and calm down.
In order to make sure things aren’t too much of a problems in December and January it is important to plan far in advance. I think last year, may be because I am older, or simply because we were so busy, we didn’t put anywhere near as much planning in to Christmas and New Year, and the transition back to everyday life as we normally do. And my Mum and I have both felt the effect of this. We created strategies and techniques to make this transition easier, but for some reason we didn’t put them in to place this year. My Mum was diagnosed with autism in the build-up to Christmas, so obviously this had quite a big impact on her life, and mine. But one positive to come from this is that going forward in to Christmas and New Year this year, we can look at not only how it might affect me, but how it might affect Mum. We both obviously struggle with these things.
What I am trying to say in this blog isn’t anything particularly negative; I just think that it`s important to make the point that things such as the stress created by change don’t simply go away as people with autism get older. Strategies and techniques are not things simply to be used in childhood and then left, especially for things like Christmas which only comes around once a year. There is so much time in-between each event that the techniques and strategies need to begin afresh every time. Even though we didn’t take our own advice for the Christmas and New Year just gone, hopefully some people reading this will have done, and had a more peaceful Christmas and New Year holiday than we did. I wrote lots of articles and blogs in the lead-up to Christmas offering advice and tips that we know work – and we will certainly be using them next Christmas and New Year J Paddy-Joe
For more information and advice on Autism/Asperger`s see our free on-line service
To read some of my autism articles check out my author page http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/author/paddy-joe/
I have co-authored two autism books. Check them out J
Paddy-Joe Moran J