Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville – did not. The Grinch hated Christmas – the whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why; no one quite knows the reason. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all… may have been that his heart was two sizes too small. But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos. Staring down from his cave, with a sour grinchy frown, at the warm, lighted windows below in their town
Hmmm….…was Dr. Seuss writing about me?! For I get The Grinch! For I typically find myself feeling like a Grinch around Christmas time, only there are a few differences. First, I do not want to spoil other peoples’ festive moods. I try to keep my Grinch-like thoughts to myself. I retreat into a pretense of engagement, and try to refocus on the true meaning: then I distract myself from the external trappings with recipe books and baking and cooking and gift-giving. I take full advantage of the coping mechanisms of eating too much and drinking too much wine. I carefully refrain from any writing, lest those Grinch-like thoughts escape from their prison between my ears into my written words, for all to read and judge. The other way I am different – I don’t hate the Whos, but I AM jealous of them – those who have big family get-togethers, those who truly celebrate as a family. Because we cannot, it’s just too hard.
Every year Christmas brings the same old challenges, to him, to me, to our family. Our autistic son N does not like surprises, even good ones. He does not like presents. Every year he does not want to be part of the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, no matter how much thought, time and effort I have put into to his gifts. And even though I know he probably won’t be part of it, I still feel disappointed, year after year. This year was no different.
Furthermore he does not like crowds, and he particularly does not like unanticipated social visits. We avoid Christmas social events, even with family, because we do not want him to be uncomfortable. There is a selfish aspect to that – we also do not want to have to publicly deal with his discomfort, nor with the misunderstanding of those around us who do not walk in our shoes.
Beyond that, throughout the holiday, he has trouble being off his routine in which school normally figures prominently. The extended loss of that routine has, in the past, caused behaviours. Frustration at not knowing what is going to happen next is acted out against us, by hitting and scratching and screaming and crying and whining – undesireables intended to communicate to us that his day is broken and we need to fix it. It does not cause us as much pain as knowing that we cannot help him.
Christmas has been a time he has not enjoyed and also it has become a season I dread. Each year I wonder, how will I cope, this time?
This year, if the Grinch STOLE Christmas, than BLUE saved it! It was BLUEs CLUES, the animated TV show designed for very young children, that captivated N’s attention for 2 long weeks……with the help of a bit of technology!
We got N an IPAD for Christmas, and before I wrapped it, I downloaded all the episodes of Blues Clues from Itunes. N loves Blues Clues! It is a great TV show for autistic kids like N, especially the older episodes, which teach basic skills and ask simple questions, and the talking is slow and deliberate. I have an ulterior motive with the IPAD, I hope to at some point introduce software to help N communicate. But he is not ready. The first challenge is always to get N to accept something new. The IPAD, if it is to be successfully introduced to N, must be presented as something fun, and not work. Because communication is work for him, there is currently no communication software on it, just Blue’s Clues episodes which he can select for himself through simple touch.
He was so delighted with being able to carry Blue’s Clues around and watch it wherever he needed that he was quite happy throughout the Christmas holiday. We added only a few car rides and trips to paradise (food store) for variety. With Blues Clues and his IPAD, he had a routine, that he could control, with the repeat of the familiar within his own hands.
Did my heart grow 3 sizes, gain strength – cannot say! Something happened this year – next year, won’t be this way!
It IS possible to see Christmas, as in the Grinch lore, for he puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!