Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tips for Christmas for Nigerian Families That Have Children on the Autism Spectrum

Countdown to Christmas already!!!

I am a huge fan of Christmas because I am a Christian and I love Christmas hymns. My father has always liked the family together at Christmas, so I grew up spending it at home with my parents. My birthday is also on Christmas day, so it always entails a lot of cooking, birthday cake and singing happy birthday songs.

Although I didn’t grow up travelling to the village or to Grandma’s place for Christmas, I know many people that grew up like that; I also know families that travel for Christmas.
Are you going to Calabar for Christmas? I heard the Christmas Carnival is always an awesome experience

Recently I searched on the internet for Christmas holiday tips for families that have children on the autism spectrum, and most of the tips that I saw may not be helpful for Nigerian parents, as our cultures are different. So today, I will be sharing the tips I can think of, and I will appreciate if you can share your own tips too, as you may have tips that have benefited you and you will like to share.

1. Prepare your child for the holiday. You may need to tell the child, using pictures, about the people visiting or the people you will be visiting. For example, “we are travelling to Grandpa’s, and we will see your Uncles and Aunties, and Grandpa and Grandma’s friends”. Provide certain details that your child may need about each person.

2. If your child is on a diet, plan ahead, pack as much as you will need. You don’t want to feel stranded in a “strange place”. You may also make enquiries on what food they have there that can be acceptable to your child.

3. Prepare for the journey. How can you keep your child comfortable or engaged during the trip? I can imagine travelling by road from Lagos to Abuja!!! OMG! I, as a neurotypical adult, never find that journey comfortable; I would usually sleep, drain my phone battery while chatting or surfing the internet, or talk if I have company. You understand your child better; you may plan short stops on the way, or charge the Tablet and the power bank. You can make it happen.

4. Did you read my post about children with autism having a right to protection? (You can read it here). If your child is prone to wander, you need to guard against that when you are out of town. I know a mother personally whose child wandered off while they were celebrating Christmas at their hometown. I have also read of other similar cases. Read the post here to know what to do to guard against wandering.

5. Educate your family. Sometime last year, I spoke with the owner of Brainfoods, who has a daughter on the autism spectrum. She told me that as Ibos (from the Eastern part of Nigeria), it is customary to go to the village for Christmas. As a mother of a child with autism, she decided to call a family meeting a particular year when they got to the village for Christmas. She explained autism to her family members, and how exactly it has affected her daughter. She also explained that her daughter was on a diet, and therefore could not eat certain types of food. She said that her family members were able to understand her daughter better, which fostered acceptance. Her daughter has since then enjoyed Christmas at their hometown, because she is well loved.

Let me stop here; I will add more tips as I remember. I need your help for other families; if you have any tip that has worked for you, please share with us here, so others can benefit.

Thank you.

PS: Can I say Merry Christmas in advance now?