|Christmas 2003 Age 6|
I did several things wrong with Logan this Thanksgiving. As his autism gets less noticeable, I tend to forget that he has difficulty navigating social situations when he is overloaded. Certainly he has been overloaded as have we all. Overlooking his needs was a decision that Michael and I certainly paid for later.
Maintaining an atmosphere where Logan remains comfortable while keeping his sensory needs in mind helps not only him but everyone else as well. Let’s face it. When you aren’t dealing with meltdowns or an overly stimulated child, you are having a better holiday. It’s not rocket science to figure that out. What is sometimes rocket science is figuring out what works and what doesn’t all while trying not to offend other family members.
You know what? Forget the other family members. It is imperative that you put your child’s needs first here. We have offended many a family member by not going to a get together or leaving early because Logan couldn’t handle it. It is not our intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. But it is bound to happen no matter how hard you try . Not everyone is going to agree with your decision. Grow a thick skin quickly. They’ll get over it.
Here is what works for us. Again as Logan has grown older and his autism has lessened, he has been able to better navigate more social situations. This has opened up a whole new world to us. I still have to remember that he gets overloaded sometimes. He gives us many signals that he is reaching his limit. I don’t always pay attention to the signals and pay for it later.
- We have the gatherings at our house whenever possible. This way, he can retreat to the safety of his room where he is comfortable when it gets to be too much for him. Logan has been known to go in his room, close the door and lock it to keep everyone out when he can not stand it anymore. I respect his wishes at this point. This translates into leaving him alone for awhile then trying to get him to come back out. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. It is completely his choice.
- Learn to say no to unimportant things. For us, this meant missing a ton of events when Logan was younger. As in, all we attended was one or two family gatherings or none if he was in a bad place already . Everyone else got a thanks but we are unable to attend at this time. Did it pain me to miss these events? You bet it did. Was it more important that my child trust me to keep his needs a priority? Oh yeah.
- Learn to recognize the signs of over stimulation in your child and leave before it gets to be too much. Every child has different signs that they are reaching their limit. Figure out what your child’s signs are and go before it becomes complete overload. In Logan, this translates into pacing, flicking a pen in his hand, demanding your attention or talking about the same thing over and over and over again. When I see those signs, it’s time to call it a night.
- Give downtime after the event. I let Logan do something brainless like watch tv or play on the computer after an event. He gets to do this be himself. He doesn’t have to be in the room with us. He doesn’t have to share with Madison. He gets to veg out and recharge.
- Make sure your child is well rested and fed beforehand. This is a no brainer. Don’t make it more difficult for your child by being tired and hungry. That’s just stupid.
These things may or may not work for your child. What is important here is to figure out what works. Figure out your game plan beforehand and stick to it. Your family and child will be better for it.