Christmas – an autistic child’s perspective
Hmm…so Mum and Dad say Christmas is coming….and…?
I know school is messed about. All the lessons are different and the other children are learning songs. I learnt them all the first day, but I don’t like all the singing – it hurts my ears. Teacher tells me that “Mum and Dad will be proud” and I should “do my best”… I do try, but it’s boring doing the same thing for ages…and the other children are SO loud, and they still get the words wrong! I wish we could have the usual lessons back. I like maths and reading. Drawing is OK, I guess. At least it’s what I am used to.
Mum and Dad said that there is going to be a big surprise when I get home. I don’t like surprises…not sure why they can’t tell me BEFORE the surprise. At least THEY seem happy about it.
So I get home…at least I think its home…but everything is different. First thing I notice even before I get through the door is the music – rather loud. I think I have heard these songs before…oh yes, it’s what we were learning at school. I can’t get a rest from it. Home is pretty, but it’s too much. The big chair is in the wrong place…and where is my play-table? Lots of bright, glistening stuff; tinsel, I think they call it. Mum is already cross, after I tried to touch it. She doesn’t understand that I NEED to feel it.
Then there is a huge tree on top of …ah, there’s MY play-table. The tree is covered in really bright, flashing lights. I don’t like that at all. Maybe if I could feel it, I would understand it better. But Dad used his cross voice when I tried to touch it. That made me sad. Mum and Dad seem really happy and excited about it all, but it’s all too much for me. Too loud. Too bright. Too different. I feel sad and angry and my head hurts; I want to explode but I don’t want to make Mum and Dad sad. I need my teddy and I need my room. I like my room. It’s quiet.
So its a few days later and I have sort-of got used to the new-look house. Still not too sure about the brightly-flashing lights on the tree on MY play-table. Apparently, today is a special day, it’s Christmas Day. Mum and Dad are very excited. I am not sure what to expect. There are a pile of brightly-coloured shapes under the Christmas tree – box-shaped mainly. There are 17 of them…and Mum is playing that music again…and its way too loud. We all sit in the front room. That’s all very well, but where are my Cheerios? I am hungry!
I ask “Cheerios please?” But they want me to do something else instead. When I get out of bed, I always have Cheerios; its how things are supposed to be. This is not good – not good at all!
Mum gets the idea and gets me my Cheerios – that’s better. “Cartoons please?” I always watch cartoons while I eat my Cheerios. I don’t want the music. It’s too loud and I am bored of it.
Well Mum seems a bit grumpy about it but she switches off the music and I watch my cartoons. Mum and Dad seem impatient but this is how I always eat my Cheerios – one at a time.
Eventually after three cartoons, Cheerios are all gone and we sit down, then Dad hands me one of the brightly-coloured shapes. I have one and there are 16 left under MY play table. Dad looks happy. But Mum has switched off the TV and that music is playing again (sigh). He says the brightly-coloured shape is for me – a present. Well, it’s pretty, but it doesn’t do much.
Mum and Dad tell me to “open it”, but I am not sure what they mean – it doesn’t have a lid, it doesn’t have a door. Mum starts breaking the present – STOP BREAKING MY PRESENT! It’s too loud, too bright and now Mum is breaking my stuff. I am going to find teddy, in my room.
My room is cool and dark; I need a short snooze.
There, I feel calmer now; I’ll go back down stairs. Hmm…what’s that smell? I think Mum is cooking, but it’s a bit early. It stinks!
Dad explains “presents” to me. Oh, so the outside is just wrapping…inside is what is important. Why are all these boxes covered in bright paper then? They are wrapped in pretty paper just so we have to break the pretty paper to get to what is inside. That seems silly.
Oh, there is the doorbell. Dad answers the door and there is a lot of noise – I seem to know the voice, although it’s hard to hear over the music. Those flashing lights are really bothering me too. Yes…still…
Oh, it sounds like they are coming in. I am not ready to see anyone else. It’s already too much…
Ah, but not too bad – it’s Granny “HELLLOOOOOOO! Merry Christmas young man!” She is very loud and gives me a hug – it hurts. And she smells really strongly of something – I think they call it perfume. I just stand there trying not to let the hug hurt me. Thankfully she lets go after a short time. Granny smiles at me, but I can tell that I have somehow disappointed her and she turns and mutters something to Mum about me not hugging. They think I can’t hear, but I can.
I don’t want to make Granny sad, but I don’t want her to hug me either. I know – I run up to Granny and hug her leg as tightly as I can…
… but that’s wrong too. Now I have hurt Granny, everyone is cross and I am very sad. With the lights and the smells and the sound and now everyone is cross and Granny is hurt, it’s all too much and I explode.
Now the doorbell rings again. Mum answers and I can see others coming in. NO MORE PEOPLE!!! My explosion just got bigger.
Dad is being nice and carries me to my room. Hello teddy.
I don’t remember much but I feel very sad. Mum’s cooking smell has invaded my room. I can hear lots of voices downstairs. Mum, Dad, Granny…then Uncle Mike, Aunty Helen, as well as Wendy and David, my cousins.
It’s all too loud and I know they will be playing with MY toys. I don’t want to fight them for MY toys, they will just break them anyway; not with the music, and the bright-flashing lights (on MY play-table), and the smells; and the adults will be busy, and they will be talking, and not want to play with me, and the other children will be too loud, and excited, and shouting, and running around, and screaming, and they will want me to play with them and…and still the music is too loud and still the lights are too bright…it’s all way too much. ARGH!!!
I think I will stay here for the rest of the day. I love my room and I love my teddy.
Be aware. Be accepting.
By Robert John Ealker AU