WARNING: Spoilers for a movie from 1985
Well, the big news is that Christmas movies are on, but I’m going to focus on one movie that came out in 1985. It’s a small movie, and not getting a lot of good press on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s called One Magic Christmas. The big thing is, this movie deals with a lot of sadness. The central family has fallen on hard times, and the mother does not see what there is to celebrate.
The trouble with the movie starts on Christmas Eve. There is a bank robbery, and the dad is murdered. Then the robber gets into the car with the two children inside. There is a chase, and the car falls over a bridge into a river, with no survivors.
At this point, my mother and I are both wondering, “What kind of Christmas movie is this?” Not realizing, of course, that It’s a Wonderful Life deals with the even more un-Christmassy subject of suicide. I think sad things have their place in the Christmas movie. Fortunately, Christmas magic is on hand to save the family, even the dad. (This is where the spoilers end, people. I’m not giving it away for you.)
Maybe I’m missing the point. I’ve seen Christmas magic do crazy things, even bring people together. I guess shocking content is nothing new. It’s just not given a real chance on most Christmas movies. One Magic Christmas deals with more real-life situations than most of these movies, which deal with fairly rich people. This one deals with the lower middle class.
And what does the mother in the movie have to celebrate? Lots of things! Maybe that’s the point of the craziness.
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:
- I put a tree in every room. I move our television to another table to make room for the main nativity.
- I decorate the table and chandelier above it, as well as the walls.
- I take down the fall towels in the bathroom and put up the Christmas towels.
- I clear off my dresser and put a bunch of stuff in different places for its little nativity set.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
I’m watching an episode of New Amsterdam – and one patient attempts suicide. Fortunately, she survives. Trouble is, there is so much stigma surrounding the family that the patient is worried she will lose her mother’s love if she undergoes therapy.
Here is how the stigma is dealt with:
- A judgmental mother. She does not even acknowledge her daughter’s attempt. “She slipped,” she says.
- A culture which describes illness as “weak.” I’m not sure if it’s the Asian culture (which is not specified), or 21st-Century American culture. Both are equally hateful of the ill.
- They are trying to wrangle around her getting therapy with lies.
- Now, the doctor is talking to the mother. He brings up another point: that the mother might have blamed herself.
- Now the psychiatrist talks to the patient. She is describing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Now the mother is admitting she needs help too, after her daughter apologizes.
Anyway, there are a lot of sadness and shame associated with the daughter’s depression. Fortunately, there is a lot of love, and burgeoning understanding, between the mother and daughter. Love wins out in the end.
Do not dismiss this case. Stigma is real. Thanks to stigma, people are not getting the help they need. Thanks to stigma, there have been people in psychosis causing chaos on the roofs of buildings. Thanks to stigma, people are suffering in silence. Thanks to stigma, people have died by their own hand. Why is it not enough that people are suffering and dying to fight stigma? How many people have to die?
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Just a little thing to grind my gears a bit….
Well, “The Little Couple” is on TLC right now. (Should it now be called “The Little Family” because they have two kids? I don’t know.) I like the show a lot, since it follows a couple that’s pretty typical. She’s a doctor, he’s an entrepreneur. The thing is, they’re Little People. Sure, they have needs and whatnot due to their being of short stature, but it is just a part of them. Being Little People does not take over their lives. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. I also noticed they’re white and generally upper class. It would not bother me so much, except that I do not see a lot of Little People of different races or classes a lot on TV. I mean, it would be ridiculous to say that Little People of Color don’t exist. The TV family’s son is Chinese, and their daughter came from India, so of course people of color are being secretly represented.
But this is often not the case.
The only other time I saw a Little Person of Color was on Cops. He appeared in two segments – one ending with his arrest, and the other ending with a job offer from a nearby nightclub that employed Little People. (The segments took place in Las Vegas.) I wonder if, being white or upper class, would the guy from Cops have had a better shot, and not needed a job offer from the nightclub? He might have been a doctor or entrepreneur. Perhaps this intersection of race and limb size has increased his suffering and decreased his chances.