As we approach this holiday season in a year of what some say was one heck of a year, I am beginning to think about my younger years and some of my interests at Christmas. Sometimes I would go visit Santa at the mall, but we never bought the traditional Santa Photo package, unsure of why but it or even going to see Santa in a loud crowded mall environment wasn’t something that was like an annual tradition for me. I would usually go to one or two of my grandparents’ social clubs’ children’s Christmas parties where we would see have snacks, and get a goodie bag from the Santa there. Now I had my own Santa moments growing up and I will save them for another blog post.
Anyway, like the unlikeliness of the annual Santa photos, that was similar with my Christmas list. I was a very hard child to shop for growing up, my parents did their best as I wasn’t very open. What I did was many times the traditional open/close, on/off, line up familiarity. I would think in a very obscure ‘out of the box kind of way’. I utilized childhood things, while considered appropriate and sort of accepted by my family, that I would imagine in my limitless mind to a very far reach. However, to my peers, this was very grandiose and my childhood years in relating to any child peer was very grandiose at best. I was bullied, I did not have playdates and I never felt accepted by those I did have to associate with me. I seemed to lean towards adult like figures at gatherings, which some may think as weird. As for objects I would use them different than the traditional norm.
As such, what I would receive for Christmas may not have always been kindly acknowledged or accepted by me and sometimes I would not express proper gratitude for the gifts. Now some things you would say were not appropriate for my age. So many autistics sometimes can have a liking for things that do not measure up to their age level. Take cartoons, such as SpongeBob SquarePants for example, many feel that after you reach teen years that you should stop watching it. For me, as it did not come out until I was 13 felt as if I could understand the social and musical nuances of it, don’t judge me, I still watch it this day and I know of adults older and younger than I that still do. I personally feel that if it stimulates and/or entertains the autistic, it is appropriate in the environment, and is safe, then by all means, allow it. However, have the understanding if possible, to the individual when and where this interest can occur. Some interests can only be safely performed within the confines of one’s home or even bedroom at times and that is OK. There’s material out there on helping define appropriateness out there.
Yes, sometimes other family and friends will be critical of your child or individual not having age-appropriate interests, and you know what, that is OK. Again, as long as the common sense boundaries are adhered to, then it is their freedom to express themselves as appropriate. Yes, especially in autistic adults, this is looked down upon, but those that support and advocate for the individual in question must do their due diligence and perform their homework, research and advocacy work to ensure that all parties are satisfied.
We as autistic adults should feel comfortable in our space and anyone that does not should be educated on the why, how and what we need in order to feel comfortable. Knowledge is Power. If the person that is unfamiliar to the individual’s environment and is uncomfortable, make them understand that it absolutely OK that they feel that way and ease the transition in when all parties are content. Sometimes persons that are unwilling to adapt, just don’t want to be associated or understand the uniqueness of those on the spectrum, and that’s OK too. Just be accepting on whatever both parties concede to, but the number one priority is whatever makes the autistic content, safe and accepted.
2020 has been one wild year, don’t make it worse than what it is!