How an Autism Family Prepares for Thanksgiving

Oh, the hours of prep work that goes into preparing for a Thanksgiving family feast…

Peeling, cutting, basting, dicing, slicing, baking, mashing, boiling and stuffing.

Not to mention the three-page grocery list, aisle change maneuvering. shopping cart dodging and baking aisle crowd surfing just to get the ingredients you need before even opening your recipe book.

No wonder you’re exhausted before you’ve even turned the oven on.

Now take that prep work and multiply it by (a minimum) of 30 days, 370 hours and 2,592,000 seconds, and you’ve got the amount of time it takes  for an autism family to brace for the Thanksgiving holiday!

An autism family doesn’t just “prepare” for Thanksgiving; we study it, rehearse it, plan it and dissect its every last detail until we’ve exhausted every possible option for potential meltdown or sensory overload.

We plot out our exact location within the house. Bay windows: too bright. Carpet: too scratchy. Kitchen: too smelly. Open doorway: too loud.

Then we stake it out. We arrive extra early to set up camp. Electrical outlet for electronics, check. Curtains or dimmer switches for calming, check. Sound proofing (with headphones on), check.

Next we surveillance it for potential “intruder invasion.” Do the doors and windows lock? Can my child reach the locking mechanism? If he happens to build a grand staircase out of Legos or popsicle sticks, can he somehow get outside? Are there extra light switches, fan cords, hinges or fancy sound systems that could catch his attention? And finally, “Can I afford to replace anything in this room should it end up broken or damaged beyond repair?”

Autism families don’t get up at 4 a.m. to baste the turkey on Thanksgiving morning because chances are we’ve been basting and slow cooking our own “little turkey” since the day after Halloween. Not to mention 4 a.m. would be like sleeping in!

Autism families prepare for the upcoming holiday far beyond just making lists, shopping, cooking and baking. We’ve inserted our turkey timer before the calendar has hit November. We only pray it doesn’t pop before we’ve had the chance to arrive.

So if you invite us over to your house to celebrate, please don’t be offended if we stay in a separate room, our children won’t socialize or we have to leave 20 minutes after arriving. Because just like you we worked hard to try and make the day special. We planned and prepared as much as we possibly could. And we appreciate the invitation more than you know.

Remember the holidays can be hard for our children. Routines are changed, crowds gather and different smells, lights and noises fill the air. But we’re trying. And even if the turkey is dry, the mashed potatoes are lumpy and the dinner rolls are slightly “over browned,” we wont hold it against you because we’re eternally thankful you chose to include us in your holiday celebration.

Autism families don’t just celebrate Thanksgiving one day a year; we give thanks for every minute that lasts a little bit longer.

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