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How I Feel About Elf on the Shelf Having Grown Up on the Autism Spectrum

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It’s that time of year again: For some, a time of peace and joy and love. For others, a time of celebration. For me, it can also be the time of stress and anxiety.

As someone on the autism spectrum, the holidays can be full of difficulties for me. There’s always a change in routine. Sometimes, there may be traveling involved. At some point, I usually end up in a meltdown.

While I’ve never really been a religious person, I grew up celebrating Christmas. I knew Santa would be visiting my home each year, leaving gifts under the tree. The excitement always led me to be so exhausted I’d start acting out. I tried to be on the “nice list,” but every year I wondered and worried, was I “good enough”?

As an adult, I have a much better grasp on handling the holidays. I stick to routine, and I rarely travel. But when I was in my early childhood development class, I heard of a new trend that has me worried for children today, especially children on the autism spectrum.

Apparently, there is an elf, which comes with a story to explain the “rules.” This elf watches a child’s every move and reports it all back to Santa. It moves around each night, but if the child touches it, the magic disappears. The elf is supposedly there to make sure the children behave.

My issue with this is that rather than simply being a fun toy or decoration, it could lead kids to think every move they make is being judged by a powerful man. In class, we even heard of an incident where a child accidentally touched the elf. The child was unable to go to school for three days because they were so upset they made themselves sick. If I were a kid, that wouldn’t be fun to me. That would be scary and stressful. And to me, this time of year is already stressful enough.

So please, if you want to get an elf, or already have one, have fun with it! Use it as decoration, and put it in funny places. In fact, let the kids come up with some cute ideas! But maybe don’t make the children think that it’s watching their every move, or that it loses its magic if they accidentally touch it.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: December 13, 2016
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