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The most wonderful time of the year? Not necessarily for autistic children

Christmas. For many, it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ For those on the autistic spectrum, however, Christmas time tells a different story.

People on the Autistic spectrum, particularly children, may be distressed by all the new activity around them at Christmas time. The break from school and change in routine can be distressing enough, without the added worry of participating in Christmas festivities.

Rachel* has an autistic son and was kind enough to share some of her experiences with us. When we spoke with her, she was feeling overwhelmed by the Christmas season and dealing with her son in crisis. 12 year old Daniel* is diagnosed as high functioning – nonetheless, changes are a big trigger for him.

“Bringing in toys on toy day in school where other people might touch his toys was a huge issue.”

Rachel earmarked visits to and from friends and family, school concerts and the general busyness of the season as particular difficulties for Daniel. “He picks up on people’s behaviour, they are ruder, more likely to push, shove or jump queues. He has a massive come down after opening his presents.”

Rachel shared a wonderful piece with us, written by Robert John Ealker, all about a child’s perspective of Christmas, which you can read here.

Despite being recognised as a traditional Christmas event, pantomime can be difficult for children who may not respond well to loud noises, large crowds, over-stimulating colours and costumes, and other typical factors that come with this sort of performance.


Fortunately, Jermin Productions is offering ‘relaxed performances’ of their Dick Whittington show this year. Lighting and sound will be reduced to soften impact, there’ll be a designated ‘quiet area’ for those feeling overwhelmed, as well as a relaxed attitude to involuntary noises and movement from audience members, who will be permitted to wander freely in and out of the auditorium. Audiences who may prefer this type of performance may include those with Autism Spectrum Condition, sensory and communication disorders or a learning disability.

“We believe that performances like these make our Pantomime accessible to all who would like to experience some festive magic this Christmas and New Year. This environment allows them to talk, walk around or be a little disruptive without parents having to remove them from the auditorium or worry about interrupting the performance.”

If this sounds like something that could work for your family, you can book tickets online now.

For more on making your child as comfortable as possible this Christmas, visit autism.org.

*names have been changed

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