Updated: Nov 21, 2021
Like everyone else, Stephanie loves the holidays. But sometimes the anticipation is too much. Stephanie can’t tell time or understand the concept of days of the week. She likes a routine so change be hard, but as long as I can plan ahead and tell her what to expect, things normally go well. But I have to make sure not to tell her too far in advance. Then she gets fixated on that and doesn’t stop talking about it. This is kind of what happens with the holidays. We like to say if we could not talk about Christmas until the day before that would be good. But the fact that Christmas decorations go up in November if not earlier in the stores and the music is on the radio, its inevitable. We have tried our share of countdown calendars, starting as far back as a 35 day countdown to our annual summer vacation at the lake. We took our first road trip vacation this past summer and drove to Florida. We didn’t tell her until the night before we left. She knew something was up but we were able to keep it under wraps until it was almost time to leave. And then we only told her about our first destination, not the final one that was 2 days away.
I have also made daily video recordings for her to watch on her iPad each morning. I would tell her what day it is, and then how many days left until we go somewhere. I would just have to remember to erase the one from the day before each night when I made a new one.
We always say she remembers what she wants to remember and it needs to be important to her. That is why learning the alphabet has always been hard for her. It doesn’t give her meaning or happiness. But she can remember singing a song outside with her Grandpa from 5 summers ago. That was special and memorable to her. But we have gone over letters for 16 years and nothing. She loves seeing family and going to get togethers. We are fortunate because I know that is not the case with families that have special needs children. Not to say we don’t have to leave early or take 2 cars, or I don’t leave crying at some get together, but we plan ahead for them as much as possible. I feel like I’m always on guard sensing her mood because I know her behavior can change instantly and things can go from bad to worse quickly, sometimes without warning. Thankfully my family understands this and does what they can to help. Last year during Covid we had smaller get togethers and she could tell something was different but wasn’t able to articulate that. Hopefully this year when things seem like normal they will go smoothly. She’s been asking about Thanksgiving for over a week now. We don’t put up our Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving so we are just focused on Thanksgiving now. We do have an Elf on the Shelf that she loves to find everyday. I can say it doesn’t help her behavior but she likes the idea of it so “Bob” the elf will always be in our house. We have done advent calendars in our house before but since we have cut out processed foods we will have to skip those now. We do have an advent wreath and she likes to blow out the candles after dinner. Since she ate all of her Halloween treats so has been looking forward to St. Nick coming to fill her stocking. It will be more little items and less treats this year but she’ll get some approved candy in there. Then it is the long 3 week wait until Christmas. We go to Christmas Eve mass before going to our family Christmas celebration. Then we stay home and open presents on Christmas morning. She loves presents, not necessarily what they are, just the opening of them. So Santa has learned to bring smaller items so there are more things to open. Thankfully her brother and sister are old enough now to know why Stephanie has more items under the tree than they do. Then there is sadness once it’s all over. Already asking for more gifts and not liking the “all done, now you have to wait for your birthday in the summer” answer I give her. We have nothing really to look forward to after Christmas is over. So hopefully she will continue to have a lot of shirt orders to fill to keep her busy. She has already started to ask to roll and package shirts at night. She has also been able to recognize the ding on my phone when we get a sale. So remember that you are making a difference when you buy from her store. She gets very excited and says “shirt sale”.