Now Reading: Autism & Holiday Traditions: 5 Adjustments We've Made Along the Way…

Autism & Holiday Traditions: 5 Adjustments We've Made Along the Way…

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({
google_ad_client: “ca-pub-3107489986272676”,
enable_page_level_ads: true

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-25522671-1’]);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);

The day we got the tree in 2013

(originally written & published on December 21, 2014)

Wifey and I did pretty ok with the holidays the past 2 years. We bought the tree early, I got the outside decorations up early, we got tons of our shopping done early, and we even got our holiday photo cards out a week before Christmas where we usually get them out on 12/26 or later.  😉

We’ve had a pretty good holiday season.

And after 11 years I feel like we’ve finally figured out what parts of the holiday traditions we can do away with because of autism (and epilepsy) and what holiday traditions must stay / are non-negotiable regardless of how hard they are on Kyle. Here’s some examples.

1) Wifey grew up with a real tree and she wants a real tree and she wants to decorate the tree.

So we drag Kyle to pick out a real tree every year and he deals with it ok depending on the year or the weather, but he’s got to suck it up…getting a real tree is a non negotiable.

And putting lights and decorations on that tree is a fav activity for wifey so we will redirect (ie yell at Kyle 🙂 5000 times if necessary to stop eating the tree.

But the idea of your kid helping decorate the tree? That’s a tradition that we did away with since he never showed any interest.

2) Visiting Santa, getting a pic with Santa?  We gladly and without hesitation gave up that tradition a LONG time ago. Kyle doesn’t get Santa & we never got a good pic…although last year we got a decent shot with Kyle and Santa at a special needs holiday party went to. That Santa was extremely patient…  🙂

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});


3) Getting out a holiday card with a good pic of Kyle is a non-negotiable. It’s happening.

But what we did tweak was we gave up trying to get a holiday shot of Kyle in front of our tree or in an Xmas sweater.

For years we’d have an Xmas photo session with Kyle. We’d plop him in front of the tree in a festive outfit and he obviously wouldn’t cooperate or look in the camera or anything. We’d literally take hundreds of pics looking for one good one.

And the whole process from the pic taking to the pouring over the pics on the computer was exhausting. So for the past 2 years we look through our pics throughout the year from our iPhones and pick out the best 4-5 that capture the essence of Kyle and pick out a collage style card and be done with it. This year we got 3 pics of Kyle on the beach during the summer cuz that is his element. 😉

4) Christmas Eve

Since we got married in ’97 Xmas Eve was always at our house. Long story as to why but it just is. It’s tradition. 🙂

And wifey and I both come predominantly from Italian roots. And with Italians Xmas Eve is the fish holiday. Don’t know why. It just is.  It’s a tradition.

Some Italians say the tradition is that you’re supposed to make 7 different fishes.

Wifey never followed that 7 fish craziness but she did cook fish.

Xmas Eve was always pretty mellow. Just her folks and my folks coming over for dinner for lots of different fish dishes.

Now I don’t like fish. Neither did my dad. So there’d always have to be a non fish dish for us heathens.  🙂

Anyway the Xmas Eve tradition of wifey cooking fish carried on for years…even after Kyle was born and then after Kyle became the crazy autism king y’all know and love.

Wifey was always slaving away making fish dishes in our small kitchen. And most of the fish that she made was the kinda stuff that you couldn’t make way in advance. (Lobster tails, shrimp, crab legs). So Xmas Eve especially after king Kyle was always a high wire act of cooking and sweating and stressing out.

Then about 4 years ago we invited one of our good friends from high school to join for Xmas Eve dinner with her husband and her 2 autistic sons.

And that added another level of difficulty to the proceedings. Not because any of the ASD kids were really any trouble, but mainly because like many autism families who are in tuned with their kids… they had maybe a 2-3 hour window maximum and then they had to leave before their kids melted down.

And wifey would be slaving in the kitchen with crab legs boiling and not really getting to spend any time with her best friend and family who she only gets to see maybe 2-3 times per year.

So 3 years ago during the Xmas Eve proceedings she called me into the kitchen. And with her hair all frizzy and mascara running due to being in a hot steamy kitchen for hours she said to me “I’m never doing this again. Next year we’re ordering take out. Your choice.”

And I said “Outback Steakhouse!”

So 2 years ago we threw the fish tradition out the window and ordered from outback. And it was a lot more relaxed for us. Our folks seemed to be ok with it to. Many of them ordered fish dishes anyway.

And last year we did it even better and got it catered from an awesome local Italian deli (chicken francese, pasta with broccoli rabe, etc). And we sent it all up buffet style in our kitchen with paper plates and said “serve yourselves” and wifey and I got to spend a lot more quality time with our friends before they had to bolt.  So we broke the fish tradition. And everyone seems to be ok with it although who knows what our parents say behind our backs. LOL 🙂

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});


5) Making Kyle open presents.  That tradition died a long time ago. We gave it up. He’s got no interest. So when someone hands us a gift for him we’ll open it for him and try to make a big fuss, but we pretty much leave Kyle out of it.

And Christmas morning there’s not a big gift opening at our house. Since he doesn’t get Santa he gets lots of gifts along the way from us and others but there’s not a big Xmas morning gift opening.

Those are the 5 things I wanted to talk about. And as usual, these tweaks are almost all about me & wifey. And that’s because we are the ones with the holiday traditions. As stated above, Kyle doesn’t seem to get the holidays.  So wifey & I are the ones with the “baggage” of these traditions…and we are the ones who needed to do most of the adjustments…

And it’s still not easy by any means…  Going to wifey’s sister’s house on Christmas Day can be a true high wire act. And throughout all these holiday festivities there are still painful reminders of how different our lives are… And how removed from the festivities Kyle can be sometimes… Last year he fell asleep on his aunts couch on Xmas day at 8pm and that’s when the real fun started…his cousins started playing video games & board games, etc. And our Kyle wasn’t in the mix. 
But again, that’s painful stuff for us.  Wifey and me. Kyle doesn’t seem to care. For the most part he’s happy go lucky. 
So wifey & I have to learn to seperate what’s hard for us VS what’s hard for Kyle. 
11 years in and it’s still not always easy….but these 5 adjustments have made it a little easier….
Maybe this year we’ll discover a 6th thing between Christmas & New Years…



amzn_assoc_ad_type = “responsive_search_widget”;
amzn_assoc_tracking_id = “a050ef-20”;
amzn_assoc_link_id = “VQ4HMJ4XYMYMZ2PG”;
amzn_assoc_marketplace = “amazon”;
amzn_assoc_region = “US”;
amzn_assoc_placement = “”;
amzn_assoc_search_type = “search_widget”;
amzn_assoc_width = 300;
amzn_assoc_height = 250;
amzn_assoc_default_search_category = “”;
amzn_assoc_default_search_key = “”;
amzn_assoc_theme = “light”;
amzn_assoc_bg_color = “FFFFFF”;
If you’re gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to  This way I can make a little money to help pay for my son’s after school & weekend therapies.  This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me… but I must admit that it’s taking up a lot more time than I ever thought… so if I can make a few bucks it’ll make it easier for me to justify….Love you all! Thanks!!

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

Conversation (12)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 People Replies to “Autism & Holiday Traditions: 5 Adjustments We've Made Along the Way…”

  1. Anonymous

    Our third child is 5 years old and does not participate in the holidays at all. She does not care about gifts though she likes to take off ornaments off the tree! She is nonverbal and has severe sensory issues and can be quite hyperactive.

    Thus she gets criticized a lot by her paternal grandparents who sigh loudly and roll their eyes. They comment on her picky eating and demand that she be in her room playing so she doesn't accidentally spill wine on them.

    So this Christmas we spent the holidays without these grandparents! My husband & I and our three kids couldn't be happier now! Not as we pictured but sometimes you gotta change it up!!

  2. As a parent of two (of three) ASD children, I feel your pain. Christmas Eve church service was deleted from my Christmas traditions years ago because my daughter would ball herself up and turtle on the pew due to overstimulation. I just adjusted(it was my tradition) and we celebrate simply here at home. As for pics with Santa, the last one I got had my daughter's butt only as she dove out of the picture rather than get it taken with Santa. I feel your pain. On the other hand, my children bring me great joy, and my husband I enjoy them regardless of how the rest of the world chooses to see us. 🙂

  3. We have three sons with autism and even though they are high functioning….almost everything about the holidays (okay…lets just say it…life) has been a huge adjustment. The thing that we have given up is just being able to feel social (be around family and friends.) This year we gave up Christmas cookies baking just because of needing to start a new diet with the boys and I'm pretty sure they are never going to be interested in watching White Christmas with me. 🙂 Christmas gift are always kind of the same type thing since they basically only play with costumes and mini figures.
    My challange is just finding joy in being different and putting away expectations that have always been. Your blog is great!

    1. I'm like your boys, in a way. I was diagnosed Asperger's, so I'm high functioning. I haven't had too much Santa exposure, but when I was four, I had an encounter with one. My preschool had a Christmas party and there's a picture of me getting a gift from Santa. I had books at school parties, but my Christmas experience hasn't been affected by Asperger's since then. I was hyperactive as a little girl, but the books kept me calmer. You can read my blog if you like. I shared my life story last winter and share my thoughts there. You can see my interests from my blog, since I mention them.

  4. Tanya

    Christmas at our house is always stressful for us with 2 boys on the spectrum. I have separated from the boys dad but my new partner is living with us. The thing I have found the hardest to deal with is trying to fit new traditions in that my new partner is used to, the boys are doing very well at fitting around these but I am not. Since having the boys I have become used to being ruled by routine and any changes usually ends up in a meltdown, this is stressful for all of us so this year I am going back to what works best for the boys and although my partner doesn't like the fact that the boys have a few Christmases the first being Christmas eve at my parents it works for the boys and that is how it is going to stay. His argument is that the kids believe in Santa and the tradition that he brings presents on Christmas eve so how do they still think that if they have a Christmas on the day before.
    Anyway I would like to wish you all a happy Christmas from me and my family x

    1. Sharon

      My grandma always told us that Santa knew we would be visiting there the day before Christmas, and he told her he would stop by a day early and leave things for us if she put out stockings. So we had Christmas Day where we opened the presents we got from Santa at home, and then we had Christmas Eve at Grandma's house, where Santa came early because Grandma and him had an understanding.

  5. What a great posting. I think most of us try, and then eventually give in to a christmas that works for our children. Naturally the pangs creep in when you see others, but it is what it is. As long as we can make it work and make the best of what we have, that's all that counts. Have a great christmas AD 🙂

  6. Anonymous

    Happy Christmas to all of you. I hope it goes as smoothly as possbile. Lots of love from us to the King.

  7. Anonymous

    This year I wanted to make decorating the tree easy so I just put on 2 great big Christmas balls and let ribbon hang down from the top. With the lights it is very pretty but simple. My autistic son just informed me that he wants all the other ornaments on the tree too. He won't help put them on but he wants them there just the same. So much for making the decorating easy.

  8. Anonymous

    Lol your like the only yankee who says Y'all!

  9. Many Italians are Roman Catholics. They eat fish in observance of the Advent Fast.

  10. fish is an Italian Xmas eve thing? that's new to me. for as long as I can remember…Xmas eve at our Italian family gathering…was home made pizza. They make one with just cheese (for me, the only one in the family apparently on the spectrum), one with cheese and pepperoni, and then one with everything.

    as for the presents. yes, i have always opened them…but never really got excited or thankful like everyone else does. it just feels awkward to me to do that. so i don't do that.