Most children live the Christmas holidays with enthusiasm, but to children with autism or other learning disorders these dates can mean days of great stress and concern. These are times when in cities there is a lot of noise (people, firecrackers, music), everything is illuminated and it almost counts walking through the streets, nothing seems to get on their side! We speak with Gema Domínguez, mother of a child with autism, to find out how your child lives Christmas and how we can prepare for this time of year without exposing him to much stress.
Teo is 11 years old, about to turn 12 on the penultimate day of the year. At the age of two and, in the middle of the Christmas period, his mother received the diagnosis: your child had a severe autism spectrum disorder. It has already been many Christmases with him, but this woman remembers the first ones as a complicated process. 'I did not enjoy those dates, I was only aware if the sound bothered him. I believe that it is a stage that all parents with a child with autism have to go through, a mourning. But, after that moment of shock,the important thing is to enjoy the holidays like another family does, and enjoy your child, adapting to what he likes and having no expectations, 'explains this woman.
And this is how, little by little, at Teo's house they prepare each year to celebrate these dates and, for example, put up the Christmas tree. 'Teo was not cooperating at first. I gave him the ball from the tree and said, "You have to hang it," and he didn't understand it, but he did. Little by little, over the years, he has understood the meaning of the tree, at least in a festive way. LIn the early years, it wasn't really funny, now I laugh, but the balls and all the decorations spent the 15 days or three weeks of Christmas on the floor, because he put them on, took them off, played with them ... They were anywhere but in the tree. But, it was how we enjoyed that Christmas decoration. '
Another thing Teo likes to do is sing Christmas carols, a way through which he can identify or situate himself in Christmas. It has little language, but there are songs that you can sing whole, and remembers them from one year to the next. 'It is fascinating to see how he starts to sing and remembers the lyrics that, almost certainly, I have forgotten. Sometimes, I make up some things because I don't know the whole verse and he looks at me as if to say 'No, that's not the way it is' and corrects me,' explains Gema with a shy smile on her face.
Each child with or without autism has a very particular interest, so if you want them to like the gift, you have to know the child very well or ask the parents to find out what interests them. Teo is fascinated by cars, it doesn't matter if he has thousands per house, he wants more. You are going to enjoy that and, above all, you are going to realize that it is a gift.
Another object that excites him are stories, his means of communication. Teo has severe autism, with a very significant impairment of language at the level of compression and expression, and also very affected socially. 'Today he can spend a lot of time flipping through stories, pointing at them, asking me to sit with him on the sofa and tell them to him. We have spent many years working with him through the stories, modifying or adapting them, putting velcro on them with things that we wanted him to learn and that has made him have a great passion for books and their stories, 'explains Teo's mother.
Will you include any of these things in your letter to Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men? And it is that Teo, like any other child, makes his letter to his majesties of the East or the man in the red suit, although his way of asking for what he wants at first cost his parents to understand. 'Teo has almost no language and what he does is go to a store and take everything he catches and put it in a car. But, we learned years ago that if we gave him a toy book, he would cut out what he liked. At first, it seemed somewhat chaotic, it seemed like he was tearing the little book. But, in the end we realized that heWhat he did was cut out the toys they liked and I put them in their letter ', explains his mother.
The day-to-day life of a family with a child with autism requires a job in which you have to learn to cope in a world that is quite hostile for these types of kids. Perhaps it all comes from a problem that parents have: we set very high expectations of how our child is going to be.
It doesn't matter if your child is neurotypical or has autism or another disability, you have to put goals aside and enjoy your child as he is. 'Even if it is difficult at the beginning and it costs the child a lot, you have to expose him but gently, not mistreating, to places with many people and very gradually. That is what we have done at home with Teo and, today, we can take him practically anywhere. It is not overnight, it is a daily job. But, in the end it serves to enjoy a lot, for example, these Christmas dates, 'concludes this mother.
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