Readers often remark on the variety of family activities we find to do. What can I say? I must have material for these slideshows. Lucky for me, the holiday season has provided many events from which to choose.
Of course, not every event is suitable for our family. Since none of us likes big crowds, we opt for smaller happenings. Since I’m a cheapskate, I seek out anything free. Since my husband is impatient, I try to find activities that will hold his interest or that are so thoroughly unappealing to him that he offers not to go. Since Philip is autistic . . .
Well, there are no simple qualifiers for that.
Earlier this month, I took Philip to a cookie decorating activity at our local library. This particular branch is teeny-tiny, so the number of attendees is just right for us. Even though there wasn’t a throng, I let Philip play with puzzles in the library proper a bit longer while the rest of the families moved into the community room where the cookies waited.
When Philip and I arrived, I selected a table with only one other child putting the finishing touches on her cookie. By this time, the volunteers weren’t swamped, so Philip could get started right away. He could take his time scooping and pouring the colorful sprinkles sitting in bowls. He could study each M & M before placing it in the frosting.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the library staff and volunteers have prior experience with Philip. Miss Sherry knows not to overwhelm him with choices or to rush him to finish. She lets him complete crafts in his own way. When he didn’t want to eat his cookie, only the frosting, she made sure he had a spoon and then left him alone to enjoy the sweetness. These minor accommodations allowed Philip to participate fully in a “regular” event.
Since strangers aren’t always as understanding of Philip’s differences, however, it’s nice to have an event designed specifically for autistic children. Sensitive Santa is one such activity. Philip seemed to enjoy the event last year, so I was looking forward to giving it another try.
Just like last year, the event was held at a local mall before it opened to the public. There were no shoppers bustling, the Muzak was turned off and the line to see Santa was short. In addition, the jolly old elf was prepped not to be loud or overbearing.
This year, Philip actually sat beside Santa. You may have seen the professional photos that were the result of this in last Sunday’s slideshow. Sure, Philip was more interested in the inflatable Santa riding in an airplane with spinning propellers that hung from the ceiling, but he humored me for long enough that we got some great photos showing Philip being, well, Philip.
Philip enjoyed riding the train again, too. He didn’t want to get in the train car at first. Not because he was scared, but because he wanted to look at the front of the train and examine the tracks. An added feature this year was a craft. There were several options and, just like at the library, there was no pressure from the facilitator to do it “correctly.”
We saw other families we knew at the event, which is always an added benefit. Yet, even among strangers, no one batted an eye when Philip rocked and vocalized. Having that kind of acceptance built into an event was a great Christmas gift for us all.