This is part two of three of my blog series about the challenges with the holidays…
November is the month widely known for Thanksgiving. When “typical” people think of Thanksgiving, they think of eating a delicious meal, spending time with friends and family, watching the parade, and saying what they’re thankful for. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of not knowing if there’s food I’m going to like, having to get dressed up, interacting with family who I haven’t seen in a long time, and being in the middle of a loud, energetic, and unfamiliar environment.
As I have said in a previous blog post, I am a picky eater. This is mostly because I have troubles with certain textures due to my sensitivity. Click here to see that blog post. I, along with many kids on the spectrum, have this issue. When I was little Thanksgiving usually wasn’t at my house so the food situation was unpredictable. I knew that there was going to be the typical Thanksgiving foods, but since I never liked these as a kid, my parents and I never knew if I would like any other food. So, my mom would pack me snacks so I wouldn’t be hungry if there was nothing for me to eat. Thanksgiving is usually now at my house and I eat more foods, so I can get away with eating ham, mashed potatoes, salad, bread, and dessert for a meal.
On Thanksgiving Day, my mom wants me to dress up in fancier clothes. I understand why she wants me to dress nicer since this holiday only happens once a year. But, I don’t like to do that. I’ve never liked doing this because the feeling of a collared shirt bugs me, which is one of my sensory issues. Also, I like routines. My usual routine is a t-shirt, so when I wear a collared shirt, I feel stressed out since I’m out of my routine. Now, my mom and I compromise by letting me where jeans (which I’m comfortable with) and a nicer polo shirt in a Thanksgiving-related color. Additionally, I don’t like taking pictures because I have to stand still for a long period of time with many people huddling around me.
Also, I saw many family members and friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time during Thanksgiving. I don’t mean my immediate family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents that I saw often. I am talking about people that aren’t blood relatives that I hardly saw such as my uncle’s family. When they were really excited to see me, I used to freak out because I either didn’t recognize them or I didn’t know them enough to want a hug. When they would try to hug me, I would back off. Now, I’m totally fine with hugs. Looking back at it, I would have liked my parents to make a social story about who I would see. If you don’t remember from my past blog posts, you can research how to write a proper social story be searching Carol Gray.
Lastly, with so many people, Thanksgiving is an extremely loud and energetic environment. This often stresses me out and I can become overwhelmed. If it is at my own house, I know safe places where I can go hide out and calm down such as my room, my parents room, or the playroom. But, when I was at someone else’s house, this wasn’t the case. I didn’t know where to go if I needed space. I distinctly remember one time when I went into a secluded bedroom (which turned out to be my little cousin’s bedroom). She was not too happy when she came in and saw me sitting in her bedroom. Knowing this now, I wish that my parents could’ve possibly shown me a designated “hiding space” in advance.
Nowadays even with all of these issues resolved: having food that I like to eat, having a place to go take a break, and being with familiar people, I still get revved up on Thanksgiving. My mom knows that she can’t rely on me to help her out when it comes time to prep that morning because I will be too hyper and that I may actually slow her down. I feel excited, anxious, and don’t like the “waiting” period before people get to the house. What works best for me is to spend Thanksgiving morning up in my room doing something that I really enjoy and having that quiet time before everybody comes. Then, when everyone gets here, I can come down and enjoy spending time with family.