What This Adorable Picture Doesn’t Tell You About Autism and the Holidays

Holiday fun mixed with autism can be complex and requires kindness.

My husband and I have three young boys. One is on the autism spectrum. Kieran is a tough little guy who has delays in most areas, but he’s bright and has come a long way in his ability to self regulate. This allows me to push the limits with him in hopes that new outings or adventures with his brothers will be a success. Sometimes they’re a partial success and other times they’re a disaster — but usually more positive than negative.

With the holidays coming up, a lot of families in similar situations have to weigh their options. Today we decided to gather at our town’s Light Up Night event. I snapped this great photo of my boys (below). They all posed nicely, Kieran even said, “Cheeeeese,” one of his new words. I share a lot of these photos with friends and family on Facebook. It probably looks like we have an amazing time everywhere we go. Photos definitely don’t speak a thousand words when it comes to autism, unfortunately. We do have a lot of good times, that’s for sure, but there’s so much complexity and planning of those times, especially with the gatherings becoming more frequent at this time of the year.

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Minutes after this was taken, Santa arrived inside a fire engine. The sirens were blaring, people were crowding the streets, and Christmas music was playing over a loudspeaker. Kieran began to panic and tried to flee the area. He had no interest in what was going on, he only knew it was overwhelming his senses and he needed to be gone — ASAP. I spent a few minutes trying to walk around the corner with him, but he was too upset and already beginning to melt down. He attempted to run into the street and refused to let me touch him. We parked close so my husband was able to get him to the car where he could calm down.

My boys have a blast together, and we don’t like to limit places we take Kieran, but things like this are always a possibility. It’s not a typical toddler response, it’s not just a kid being stubborn, it’s a true neurological response to overwhelming stimuli.

Keep this in mind when you see children acting in similar ways during the holidays. Holiday parties, malls, visits to Santa, grocery stores — they all pose a threat to some individuals on the spectrum. Be kind and understanding this holiday season.

This post originally appeared on Five Hammerheads.

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