Sam is 2 and a half now. He is in the process of being diagnosed with Autism, and generally struggles when we change his routine. Last Christmas, we weren’t really aware of his Autism, and he spent all day in tears. With this in mind, we were keen to make this year as easy for him as possible, while still enjoying Christmas as a family.
We decided that as Sam has never shown any interest in opening presents, we’d just get a big Santa sack, unbox all of his gifts from us and pop them into the sack for him to find when he wanted to. This was definitely a good idea! We decided to put everybody’s wrapped gifts into the kitchen and bring 1 through at a time to be opened. Syd’s wooden toy kitchen and Sam’s ride in batmobile were in the hall, unwrapped and ready to be played with.
When Christmas Morning came around, all four of us came downstairs at the same time (this is a huge change for Sam as he usually goes downstairs with just Daddy). He got very excited when he saw the toy kitchen. After a few minutes exploring it, he toddled off into the playroom and his “normal” morning routine continued.
We stuck to his normal routine as far as breakfast went – we did breakfast before we brought any presents into the playroom. Sam was pretty settled considering Syd and I were there as well. Once we’d all eaten, hubby passed Sam his sack. Sam wasn’t interested in it at first, but he did keep popping back into the hall to check on the batmobile and toy kitchen!
Hubby then brought through a gift for Syd to unwrap. She jumped into the challenge and had the paper off in seconds. Sam wasn’t really phased by the excitement. He didn’t really show any interest when hubby or I opened our own gifts, either. Gift opening usually triggers meltdowns with Sam, so we didn’t pressure him to unwrap his won gifts. We did it for him, unboxed them and added the toys to his sack for him to discover at his own pace.
After a while I opened the Santa sack fully, to show Sam the contents. He saw the Postman Pat Van and got really excited. Sam took the (already unboxed and ready to be played with) van out of the bag and sat down with it. Sam played for over half an hour with the van, before going back to the bag for another toy.
Sam coped amazingly with all of the new toys being scattered around the playroom. He loved the sack and we will definitely be doing this type of thing when giving him gifts in the future, too. The fact he didn’t have to wait around while toys were removed from their packaging or batteries were installed seemed to help us avoid meltdowns.
As the day progressed, Sam flitted between playing with his old toys, then a new one. The fact his old stuff was still accessible helped to keep him calm, too. We had the tv on in the background with the kids, favourite shows on, so they could zone out from the new toy chaos and watch a bit of TV when they wanted to. Sam didn’t watch much TV really, but he did keep looking at it – again, I think it helped him deal with the change in routine, as the shows are so familiar to him.
Hubby and I spent all day playing with the kids in the playroom (aside from when I was making Christmas Lunch). Sam was smiley, giggley and generally happy all day. I did a Quorn roast for hubby and I, plus we gave Sam some of that. I also did “pigs in blankets” for hubby, Sam and Syd, too. On top of that, there were Yorkshire Puddings, mashed potato, roast potato, roast parsnips, actifry carrots, sweet potato, onion and swede, boiled broccoli and cauli, peas and gravy. Sam had some of everything except yorkshire pudding and gravy on his plate. He ate everything except the boiled veg! I was so proud of him for trying so many different vegetables. For dessert, I had made a Dairy free chocolate log (Syd is Dairy/Soya intolerant). Sam ate a decent size portion of that, as well! Sam hates wet food, so I made sure he didn’t get any gravy. I also used the actifry to cook a lot of the veg I would normally have boiled, as Sam prefers dry textured food.
After tea, Sam happily had his bath, then he curled up on our bed with us to watch the Snowman and Snow Dog. He seemed to love the film, and got really excited when the dog came to life.
As days go, it was definitely one of the best family days we’ve ever had. Sam’s Autism wasn’t an issue at all. We made a few changes to our “normal” Christmas day, and the forward planning made a HUGE positive impact for Sam, and us all as a family. I am so proud of Sam (And Sydney – she was fab all day too)! They both exceeded my expectations on the tantrum front. Between them, they made it the best Christmas Day ever!
What do you think? Happy Much?