A Few Thanksgiving Tips from This Autism Beach Mom

 A Few Thanksgiving Tips  from This Autism Beach Mom

By Kami-Leigh Agard

The Turkey apocalypse is just a mere week away, and I’m already cringing. In Greek, the word, ‘apocalypse,’ literally means to pull the lid off something or that which is uncovered, a revelation. Quite appropriate, as during the holidays, I’ve witnessed how family and friends reveal their true colors when it comes to my daughter and autism. Soanirina “Soa,” wears noise-blocking headphones, which may lead some to assume she is rocking to Bad Bunny or Taylor Swift. No, she’s blocking out noise. So, at the Thanksgiving table, she does the same—blocking out the chatter and bombardment of questions about her speech and progress. Folks, here’s some advice about what not to make the focus of the dinner table discussion and why exercising patience and understanding goes miles for families with special-needs children. And please keep this in mind, this is not about sympathy—but empathy!

  1. Please don’t make comments about our children’s food preferences. For example, Soa eats like she is on the paleo diet, and loves vegetables and meat. So, please don’t ask why she is not eating the apple pie you lovingly prepared or pushes away the macaroni and cheese. Like you, our children have their likes and dislikes.
  2. When our children have to go, they have to go! I’ve witnessed that a common denominator of autistic individuals is they’re brutally honest. So, if our children abruptly announce they want to leave, or like my daughter, gives her cue by dragging me to the door, please don’t take it personally. With Soa, she shies away from too much attention and likes to retreat to a quieter space.
  3. Please don’t tell us to control or yell at our children when for example, they get excited, make noises or jump around. This is how some individuals with autism express their emotions, whether it be excitement or discomfort. This is why I’m sometimes reluctant to take my daughter to holiday gatherings. On more than one occasion, I’ve been commanded, “Control your child!” Just like when we check our coats upon arrival, check your opinions and exercise understanding.
  4. Don’t ask about our children’s progress or lack thereof. Aren’t holidays meant for fun and spending valuable time with family? As parents, we are already stressed and harbor our own concerns, so, we don’t need the extra reminders of what you perceive our children should be doing.
  5. Ha! As a family, some of us are notoriously always late. For example, perhaps my daughter was having a meltdown, or we were literally pleading with her to get off the floor. For us, most times, it takes time and patience to get a family excursion on schedule.
  6. Here’s a big one. Please don’t ignore our children. They observe your behavior and intuitively know they are being ostracized. Don’t suffocate them with attention, but also, don’t act like they are not there. Instead, acknowledge them. Our children are as deep as the ocean’s abyss and feel more than you assume. A warm smile can go miles.
  7. And most important of all—Be thankful! Be accepting! Be grateful! Our children deserve to be loved and accepted for who they are. Thanksgiving is not just about turkey or apple pie; maybe it’s chicken nuggets and a lemon (yes, my daughter devours a lemon like an apple, skin and all!). Whatever the meal, it’s about spending time and giving thanks for our blessings with family and friends.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Feel free to share your thoughts by emailing: kami@rockawaybeachautismfamilies.org  

Join Rockaway Beach Autism Families at our annual holiday party, Sunday, December 10, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Knights of Columbus (333 Beach 90th Street). Free! Everyone (including adults) goes home with a gift and a belly full of food! If you would like to donate a gift towards our toy drive, please reach out. For more info, visit Rockaway Beach Autism Families on Facebook/Instagram.

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