Christmas Holiday Prep Part 1: The Decorations


Strangely, there is a lot of stress at the beginning of our family Christmas holidays, and at the end. My first stress is simply this: putting up decorations. The decorations, I’m sorry, are very disruptive in my house.  

Here is what I do:

  1. I put a tree in every room. I move our television to another table to make room for the main nativity.
  2. I decorate the table and chandelier above it, as well as the walls.
  3. I take down the fall towels in the bathroom and put up the Christmas towels.
  4. I clear off my dresser and put a bunch of stuff in different places for its little nativity set.
  5. And for the cherry on top, I put a giant Christmas tree right in front of the patio door, blocking my only view of the outside I consider safe to see out of. (There is a giant bush blocking the view outside my bedroom window, by the way.) Besides, the tree has nowhere else to go.  

Anyway, Christmas usually has the most decorations in my house. I am still decorating the main tree at this point, tweaking and filling bare spots and such.  

Strangely enough, the decorating gives me a sense of stability – that it’s time to prepare for Christmas. I can understand, though, how the décor is majorly disruptive for so many of us autistic people out there. They get in your way if you let them (and many don’t have a choice in the matter!). It’s like those majorly strong cinnamon brooms that used to get in the way of my nose about this time every year. This year, though, the cinnamon brooms were encased in plastic, and I barely smelled them. That’s progress.  

If it needs to be, do small Christmas decorations. Not everybody needs to have a Christmas tree which blocks the patio door. A little tree in the apartment on top of the table can be good enough. Don’t worry, dear autistic adult: do your holidays your way.  

I’ve also got a few tips for the parent or caretaker of the autistic person who needs more support than I do, along with personal experience. 

  1. Involve the autistic person in the decorating decisions. Again, since I’m coming from Christmas, it behooves them to involve how all the distracting stuff falls into place and helps get them ready for the holidays you celebrate. Believe me – getting the decorations out early helps them ease into the holiday.
  2. Rehearse/teach them how to receive various presents. Toys they can handle. What you might want to rehearse is how to receive socks, clothes and the stuff you’re not sure they know what it is. Teach them to simply say, “Thank you for the gift. It is lovely.” On a personal note, I received a wooden oven rack pull, and somebody had to explain and actually show to me what it was. Awkward! But I use that rack pull all the time.
  3. We NEED escape options. I end up going to the restroom frequently for this – but I think I need to explain to my hosts how this works. I don’t want to hog the bathroom all the time. It’s usually boring in there! I’m going to see if this year I can make a quiet space for myself and a fellow autistic relative of mine, if we go this year.
  4. Favorite foods and meals are good – remember, stability is key. In a potluck situation, this is easy to do. Sure, some autistic people can try a lot of foods, but bring the person’s favorites to maintain stability. Go ahead and bring the chicken nuggets, or whatever they need.
  5. LET THEM STIM. Stimming is a comforting motion which expends excess energy from emotion or stress. Leave them to it. 

I’ll give a few more tips as I think of them for a lower-stress holiday. They sometimes come slowly for me.

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Report: A Successful Autistic Thanksgiving


Well, the Thanksgiving was a success. I almost had a meltdown over the anxiety while walking the dog, but that was over once I got the turkey in the oven. 

Of course, there was a period of relaxation while the turkey was roasting. The rest of the dishes were easy to prepare. Anyway, the dinner was a success. We ate, relaxed, ate again, and I broke down the turkey with ease. I hope to be more confident next year.

The schedule was easy. It was just my mother and me, but I would have liked the challenge of adhering to a set time. We just ate when we were done. It was cool. We got calls from people who truly cared about us. It was a lovely day. 

Well, I’m off to eat a third helping of turkey. See you later. 

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep

Please forgive me…I’ve been trying to process all the happenings in California, which is now Fire Country. I’ve been numb from all the climate change denial, the fake compassion, and inability to learn. (We all know who this is about.) Please, support legitimate causes surrounding California.  

Now that the California Public Servant Announcement is done, let’s get to…. 

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep 

If you have not been reading lately, just know that this year, as in years before, I am in charge of Thanksgiving cooking – with help in the timing department from Mom, of course. Fortunately, most of the dishes are baked in the last hour, so that makes things a little easier. I only have to cook mashed potatoes, bowtie noodles and gravy on the stove. Everything else is baked/roasted.  

I already have the turkey in the refrigerator, and have had it there for a few days, because we got a large one. Strangely enough, I have encountered a small mass of ice in the cavity every time I have cooked turkey before, no matter how long I have set it out – not up to a week before, though. Anyway, the turkey has always been a success, so there’s really little to worry about there. Just so you know, we do NOT stuff the turkey with stuffing prior to baking; we need room for our aromatics. Besides, we have a bunch of turkey stock and broth formulas on hand for our stuffing and other dishes. Of course, we roll out enough food to feed an army, or feed us for a weekend.  

Much of this stage of prep involves deciding how and in what to serve our dinner. A quick hack for this: Use sticky notes to label the dishes, so you’ll be ready when the food is ready to be served up. And don’t move the notes around! You could lose them.  

Why am I prattling on and on about Thanksgiving food prep? It helps me deal with the holiday, of course. It helps center my mind and body for the upcoming task. Besides, most people think that because of my autism, I would not be able to do Thanksgiving cooking. Well, boo on them. I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for years. I’m thankful for the ability to do it.  

Anyway, involving the autistic person in the process, and explaining it clearly to them every step of the way, is key to helping them deal with the holiday. Remember, think of things from their point of view: many of these Thanksgiving dinners involve strange foods, strange practices, and even people who are not normally there for a lot of the year. To an autistic person, this amount of upset can be overwhelming. Have empathy. (Funny I need to say “Have empathy” to people who think I can’t have empathy. Ironic? Maybe.) Explain this clearly and physically age-appropriately. They can understand more than you think.  

Also, a pro tip: Pull the turkey into the fridge TODAY, if you haven’t already. Even those small turkeys that weigh maybe four to six pounds some people are fond of need at least two days to thaw.

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps Part 1: Early Shopping

I’m no Thanksgiving expert, but I’d like to give an insight into how dealing with Thanksgiving works with our family.  

In our house, Thanksgiving prep begins early, at the beginning of November, or the end of October.  We clear out a space in the freezer for our turkey. We decide what we want on our menu, and get the non-perishable and freezable ingredients, like the turkey, corn and cranberry sauce. Much of our Thanksgiving is bought in this early time, and I myself set it aside. (I’m basically in charge of cooking now, which I can do well. No, the ability to cook a major meal does NOT negate my autism, thank you. Neural conditions do not work like that.)  

We then, over the coming weeks, buy fresh ingredients as the holiday gets closer. We have just today bought our rich half and half for the potatoes, and cream cheese for the celery. Hey, it’s my Thanksgiving. We’ll have it ready by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.  

Having a major hand in preparing the dinner helps me to anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. It consists of traditional dishes (like the celery for us), traditional eating all weekend, and traditional putting up of the Christmas décor.  

I think giving the autistic person responsibilities concerning the Thanksgiving holiday gets them into a mindset that everything will be okay. You may have to serve chicken nuggets just for them, along with having to wait until they’re older for them to eat like you, but usually the eating Thanksgiving meal comes. It may take a while. 

Of course, I learned to eat Thanksgiving food watching others eating. This might help some of us.

For the Parent(s) of Autistic Children

CONTENT WARNING: Ableism, vaccine blame,  

I know, I know, most parents of autistic children consider Autistic Adults as nothing but clueless, not-autistic-enough morons. Why should you care what us morons known as Autistic Adults have to say? They’re not autistic enough to speak about your child! Truth is, all autistic children becomes us morons.  

  1. Autism is Not Going Away – So accept it. – Your child was autistic the whole time. Perhaps they regressed after a long time of growth and development. Current theory correlates the cause to over pruning of the child’s memory ways at about 18 months to 2 years old. Besides, if you don’t tell them, they will eventually find out themselves. Add a rejection of the autism diagnosis, and you will plant permanent seeds of doubt that they actually love you. It happened to me.  
  2. VACCINES DID NOT CAUSE YOUR CHILD’S AUTISM!!!!! – Unfortunately, now that vaccine-preventable diseases are making a comeback, I have to SCREAM the above point.
  3. Yes, your child is communicating; you’re not listening.  – Children with autism, even though they may not use words, they are trying to communicate. They may communicate physically. They may communicate through song. They may communicate through behavior – most of them communicate through behavior.
  4.  Meltdowns are not tantrums; they are something else altogether. – In case you don’t know: your child does not turn into the Hulk on purpose. It is usually an overwhelming sight, sound, smell, taste or touch that causes that. I’ll give you an example:  From October through December, there are, in some stores, some strongly-scented cinnamon brooms, or cinnamon-scented pine cones, in some area for sale. I once told my mother that these heavily cinnamon-scented articles literally burn my nose. (Yes, I do know what literally means.) I get a burning sensation, and it takes nearly everything in me not to have a meltdown right then and there. If I were a child, the meltdown would probably be inevitable. Sure, I’ve had my meltdowns every now and then, but they can be prevented. Perhaps knowledge they will come has now prevented the more recent cinnamon-related one.
  5.  About ambition: let them have some. You don’t know what potential is inside your child. – There is a common misconception that autistic people have little hope of living on their own, or even outside an institution or family successfully. As a woman, I keep my house clean, do regular chores, and care for my mother, who is disabled. I can cook, pay bills and easily manage a budget. I haven’t yet learned how to drive, but that is coming. I can pretty much do everything else, though. Why am I tooting my own horn so much? Your own autistic child has so much potential to unlock, plus there are coming opportunities I and others before me have never had. Nurture them! 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. My mother is lucky to still have me; there are autistic adults out there who want to ban parents altogether.

Baby Steps in the Right Direction

So, I watched an episode of “God Friended Me.” It involved a woman and her autistic son. I believe the portrayal of the autistic son was realistic, albeit there were several stereotypes I have to point out.  

Let me say, first of all, that I liked the casting of the family. The actors were black. Personally, I do not see enough diversity in the casting of autistic people, especially since people tend to think we all are white males who look and act like Sheldon Cooper. We’re not clones; Hollywood and Television City tends not to see that for the most part. Personally, I want more diversity in autism portrayals.  

So, let’s talk about some stereotypes. The first stereotype I came across was that the child was nonverbal. I know nonverbal autistic types exist. The truth is, most of us are verbal – quite verbal in some cases, but I digress. It’s mostly a stereotype. A second stereotype is that the child has extraordinary talent – a savant trait, if you will. Now, it was not explicitly named, though it was heavily implied. I don’t know how many of us have a real savant trait, but I hear it’s not the majority. Finally, there seemed to be a sort of “magic key” stereotype that also creeps into many portrayals of mental illness as well. Why do they do the “magic key” thing anyway? Most of the time, it does not work. 

Maybe I’m being too hard on stereotypes. The actor was not portraying an autistic meltdown, for example, and the child was finding his own way to communicate, which is often a foray into more traditional avenues of communication, such as the child’s smile.  Maybe having one or two stereotypical behaviors helps identify the character, as long as there is truth to them; the lack of empathy stereotype is wrong and harmful, though. It may be some time before we get a real, authentic portrayal that offends few.  

After saying all this, I still believe “God Friended Me” took steps in the right direction.

About “Refrigerator Mothers” and I Never Had One

A common, albeit extremely ancient, myth is that autism is caused by mothers, known as “refrigerator mothers,” being cold and unaffectionate. Well, that’s not how my mother worked.  

I remember as a child specifically being held and hugged by my mother many times. Often, she would tell me I needed a hug, and would often give me one. I enjoyed them, even though I may have been stiff about them in the past. (Did she know how to explain the proper hug response?) Well, this is one of the many examples of the warm and inviting personality my mother has.  

Other examples include the parties my mother would throw for my siblings and I. They were awesome! For example, I would get a summer sleepover for my birthday. We would get candy and cake and movies…and all the gossip we could handle, though I was often the subject of the gossip. I tried, but could not quite get into the inner circle.  

The thing is, I had no one explain to me the various tenets of social interaction. For example, no one told me that people do not sort the candy by color. So, how do you expect a girl who does not learn by osmosis, the way neurotypical people do, to interact well with people who learn by osmosis? Poorly, of course. It’s like a five-year-old trying to drive a car. They’re going to crash it.  

So that’s the thing that autistic people need. Explanation and education. Maybe if there were social interaction classes, like the old “finishing school” stuff back in the 1950s, without the gender stereotypes and controlling women aspect, I would have had a chance. But even my best friend would bully me and stab me in the back, and I think my autism was to blame, because people hate different. I’m only an autistic human; be gentle.