Ah, the holidays. A joyful time of year to spend celebrating with family and friends over festive holiday meals and heart-warming gifts from loved ones.

Yeah, right.

If you’re like me and live in the real world, holidays are anything but like the events I just described.

For us, the holidays are a hectic time spent traveling all over North Mississippi and Middle Southern Tennessee, bouncing from one house to another, filling our already too-full bellies with obligatory dinners and trying to keep our mouths shut when someone comments on the way our child constantly makes loud noises as he plays.

For me and my family, the much expected, ignorant comments made by relatives who don’t understand Cooper is about as bad as it gets during Yuletide season. But for many of you, it gets much worse.

For us, it’s just the other adults we have to worry about. Our child has no problem with the hustle and bustle of Christmas gatherings and shopping trips, in fact he loves it.

However, for my friend, Rachel, who has a son, Max who is on the serious side of the austism spectrum, the holidays are a nightmare.

She has to develop an “action plan” for each gathering, one that includes a quiet place to take Max when the noise and tight quarters filled with lots of people become too much for the little guy, in addition to dealing with the looks and quiet whisperings of other adults who don’t understand why Max lashes out.

Rachel has to make sure that everyone planning to buy gifts for Max will give him something that will engage and comfort him and she always worries that people will be offended by her list of gift suggestions for Max.

All of us with children with special needs have learned that the holidays are not going to be perfect. In fact, most of us have learned to expect the worse and hope for the best.

Maybe this year we should all try something a little different.

We should ENJOY this time of year and do whatever it takes to make sure that happens. If achieving this unbelievable dream of having an enjoyable time with your family this holiday season means seeing less of your extended family this year, so be it.

Remember, you and your children deserve to be happy, too.

Happy Chrismahannakwanzakuh to you and yours!

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