Okay, everyone, here’s your chance to make a young boy’s Christmas…William Thomas is a twelve-year-old from Blaine, Washington. William, who is nonverbal but signs and writes his thoughts, usually crafted his Christmas list with things like art supplies, snacks and movies (check out this article). But this year he asked for something different – mail.
Every day William takes a walk with his teacher to drop off mail, and he something he really enjoys doing. So knowing how happy mail made her son, William’s mom, Kay, made a simple request through Facebook to family and friends asking them to send William a card or letter to make his Christmas wish come true.
As Kay wrote on her page, I have been racking my brains for a couple weeks. I want to make this year special for this most special boy. He has nothing but love in him and I want him to feel the love from others. If you want to help a kind soul this year, I am asking for strangers to send him mail. I want him to know the world loves and values him in a way that he understands and feels.
Kay’s request went on to be shared by thousands and now William is getting mail from people all over the country, and even abroad. He’s so excited to get the mail that his mom lets him open a few a day (while leaving a bigger box to open on Christmas!).
For many children with autism, a simple trip to visit Santa at the mall (or any public place) can be a complete sensory avalanche. Bright lights, loud music, long lines, bold decorations…the list could go on…can cause many children (and not to mention, parents) a lot of distress. So much distress, in fact, a lot of families have given up this family tradition altogether.
The good news is that many malls and other places that Santa visits are now making special accommodations to meet the needs of those that have sensory concerns. These sensory-friendly Santa events used to be less common, but over the years they’ve grown in popularity because of their success and now most places are holding such events. Often malls will designate a time in which they’ll lower lights, turn down/off the music, and just make it a more calming environment so that you can worry less about a potential sensory overload.
So if this is something you want to try out, now is the time to start looking around for such an event in your area because they are often scheduled early in the holiday season (and sometimes there’s only one day/time, so we wouldn’t want you to miss out!).
If you want to get an idea about how one of these sensory-friendly Santa events works, check out the video above for a good example.
The 4th of July can be a fun holiday full of picnics, family time and, of course, fireworks. However, for many on the autism spectrum, loud noises like fireworks can be an extremely upsetting experience. And maybe you learned that the hard way in a past year. But don’t give up hope that fireworks can be part of your holiday – something that the whole family can enjoy together – it just may take a little prep ahead of time.
Here are some things you may want to consider if your 4th will include fireworks:
Practice – You may find that there are (sometimes smaller) local fireworks in the days leading up to the 4th of July weekend, so it may be good to do a test run. Talk about the fireworks in advance. Some of the anxiety comes from the unknown, or unexpected, so easing into a larger fireworks display with smaller shows could help alleviate the anxiety a bit.
Give a visual – Sometimes having a visual can help better communicate what to expect. You may want to watch fireworks online, or even read a book about going to see fireworks, to help prepare for the real thing.
Headphones – If the noise level is just too much – and your child can tolerate headphones (this is an item that usually needs time to get used to as well) – headphones can help cancel out the noise to that they are left just enjoying the beautiful color display.
Find a Quieter Place – It might be best to keep some distance between you and the fireworks, so, depending on the location, you may be to enjoy the fireworks from your car or from an outdoor space that is further away.
Whether fireworks are in your future or not, we hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!