The holidays can be stressful for everyone, but when you’re a special needs parent it takes on a whole ‘nother level. The holidays cause a huge change in routine for months at a time. School and therapy gets canceled, you visit family you wouldn’t normally see, and you go to new places with strange foods and smells and experiences.
You also face a lot of questions from well-meaning friends and family. See, most kids love the holidays, so if your child struggles with them it can really throw people off. Try to be patient with these questions, even when it’s difficult. I’ve noticed that if I come to an event prepared, it helps me keep my calm and not lose it before I even have a cup of cocoa. So these are a few questions special needs parents face during the holidays so that you can prepare yourself!
Questions Special Needs Parents Face During the Holidays
Does He Eat Real Food?
I get asked this at every family party ever. A-Man has an extremely limited diet. The only meat he eats is chicken nuggets (only from specific brands). He sticks to mainly carbs like crackers, cereal, chips, breads, etc. And we have yet to find a vegetable that he will eat. Every holiday is a struggle with all of the new and potentially triggering foods, so we always bring snacks that we know he’ll eat.
During Christmas, though, he often eats a few too many Christmas Cookies for my family’s liking. Or maybe someone gets offended when he refuses to even try the meal they’ve spent hours making. “Does he ever eat anything”? Sometimes it comes in a bit snottier, like, “aren’t you going to make him eat?”
Short answer? No. I’m not going to make him eat. Because he’s a person who is perfectly capable of making his own choices. His brain makes him truly believe that unfamiliar foods are as awful as poison, and I’d rather not force-feed my child something that will make him sick. Thanks for asking, though.
Is he EVER in Trouble for ANYTHING?
This can come from well-meaning adult family members, but it also often comes from the other kids at a holiday gathering. If they get in trouble for shouting too loud, but then someone makes an excuse for A-Man, it can be really frustrating. I totally understand this question, but it can get disheartening to hear it over and over again.
The thing is, yes, A-Man gets in trouble just as often, if not more often, than other kids. But A-Man’s “trouble” doesn’t look like other kids’ “trouble”. Often when he gets in trouble we call him over to us for deep squeezes, or we give him a sensory-specific toy, or even sometimes a snack. Because of his autism, expressive communication delay, and severe sensory issues, traditional punishments don’t work.
Have You Tried….
If I had a $1 for every time that someone started a question this way, I would never have to worry about paying for one of my son’s therapies again. Let me give the short answer. Yes. I have tried. Whatever you’re about to say, I’ve tried. I try so much stuff that whenever my son’s therapists (you know, the ones whose job is literally to give me idea to try) start a question like this I’ve tried it already.
I will say, there is one big exception. If you’re giving me a suggestion on how to make A-Man appear more neurotypical or “cure” his autism, I haven’t tried it and I won’t. Autism is awesome, we have no desire to get rid of it.
Can’t You Just….
Again, this is a suggestion often given to me by well-meaning family members. When I get frustrated that plans change again. When I say that we have to stay home, and if anyone wants to see us they can come here. When I say that we can’t attend an event because there’s too many new experiences. “But can’t you just…”
No. I can’t “just” anything with an autistic child. And honestly, it’s never a “just” type of thing. It’s more like “but can’t you uproot your entire routine and schedule?”
Listen, I understand that family and friends totally mean well with these questions, and I don’t actually take offense to them. They just really start to wear you down when you hear them over and over again from October to January. It’s like when you work retail and you hear the awful “Muzakk” Christmas playlist for 4 months. It ruins Christmas music for you.
You can learn more about how to survive the holidays as a special needs parent below!
Surviving the Holidays with Special Needs | Natural Beach Living
Free Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids | Every Star is Different
Navigating Trauma and PTSD Over The Holidays | STEAM Powered Family
Holiday Myths & Autism | My Home Truths
Visual Christmas Schedule for Special Needs Kids | Life Over C’s
Surviving the Holidays with a Child with Anxiety | The Chaos and The Clutter
| B-Inspired Mama
Questions Special Needs Parents Face During the Holidays | This Outnumbered Mama
26 Holiday Survival Tips for Autism Families | And Next Comes L
The Year That I Made Santa Claus Cry | Kori at Home
| Parenting Chaos
Conquering the Holidays: They Don’t Need to be Perfect | 3 Dinosaurs
Why I Canceled Christmas: What You Need to Know about Surviving Holidays | Carrots Are Orange