The National Autistic Society (NAS) has produced a film featuring families with children and young people affected by autism offering advice on dealing with the Christmas period.
Most children and young people in the UK look forward to the festive season, the family get-togethers, decorations, presents, Christmas dinner and getting away from school, but all of these can cause huge anxiety to people with autism. Changes to routine can be very traumatic and lights and noise can cause sensory overload that can be unbearable. Many have dietary issues that are magnified during this period. The shops are crammed with people, adding to their anxiety and visits from extended family can cause added social pressures.
So how do parents and carers cope and manage to have a trauma-free Christmas that can be enjoyed by the whole family?
Jane Smith explains on the film: “Decorations can be upsetting for my son. We cannot have much decoration and the tree has to be set out a certain way. He does not like balloons because he knows they pop and he cannot handle the noise. It can be upsetting for other members of the family who would like more decorations but we cannot risk it for the anxiety it might cause.”
Caroline Hattersley, NAS Head of Information, Advice & Advocacy, said: “Autism is a lifelong and disabling condition that affects around one in one hundred people in the UK. Christmas is a time of celebration and there is no reason why children and young people with autism should not enjoy the festive season in the same way as other people. We have produced this film to demonstrate some of the issues that people face at Christmas and to give others the opportunity to contribute to the discussion, and share experiences and ways of coping.”