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Pete Wharmby @commaficionado
, 20 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
If there is an autistic person in your midst this Christmas, please bear in mind the following pieces of advice to help them and you enjoy the season, from one of them 1/?

THREAD...
First of all, Christmas is a potential nightmare for autistic folk. The lights, noise, Slade, too many people squeezed into a front room, drunk people - it's a recipe for utter misery for some autistic people, children and adults. 2/?
They will need, first and foremost, and escape route from any busy locations, especially places they've never been before. But it's not enough to have a way out ready - people have to not make a big thing about them disappearing for a while! 3/?
Nothing is worse than the rest of the group making a song and dance of the fact you need some air. Ideally you should be able to slip out unnoticed or at least unrewarded, so you can then slip back again. 4/?
It is also very helpful if people allow autistic friends and relatives to skip some segments of festivities. Offer it, especially to children who may be too scared to ask - 'if you need a break, you can pop upstairs and chill for a bit if you like'. Leave it up to them. 5/
As far as possible keep routines normal on Christmas day, or if you have established Christmas routines, don't deviate from them as an autistic person will rely on them to help them handle everything else the day brings. 6/?
Buying presents *may* have been extremely challenging for an autistic person as it's hard for us to imagine whether our idea of a cool pressie is your idea of a cool pressie! Just be grateful! 7/?
Christmas can bring a halt to an autistic child's engagement with their interests as other things will be expected of them. Trouble is, their presents may well be part of their obsession, like a new video game. Likelihood is that them finally having the thing... 8/?
... they have wanted for months, coupled with not being able to play with it, will lead to meltdown (and bloody rightly so). So be mindful of this and structure the day so they have an opportunity to indulge in their favourite hobbies. 9/?
But yes, it is Christmas so you may not be happy with your son, daughter, spouse wandering off to play Counterstrike all day, so set clear time limits and expectations. 10/?
Surprise gifts may be a bad idea. Surprises generally are not always welcome for autistic people, so bear this in mind. just coping and trying to show gratitude for a clearly unwanted present is really hard work. 11/?
Don't forget that autism continues into adulthood and never disappears. You may have a loved one who manages to camouflage their autism, but remember that this is *exhausting* for them, so give them a break from time to time and let them be themselves. 12/?
A few small tips: have single coloured, non-flashing/winking Xmas lights; too many decorations could be overwhelming so tone it down a bit (this may help anyone, to be fair); DON'T ARGUE, even if it's traditional! 13/?
Listen to them. It may not interest you to hear about the minutiae of how the Imperial Guard field the best tanks, or how many species of elm there are, but this is important stuff to us and we just want to be able to share it. #autism #Christmas
Autistic people will often have small coping strategies that are physical in nature, like twirling a pen, drumming with their hands, rubbing their feet together. The older we are the more subtle it will be. Do NOT comment on it as it'll make us feel silly. 15/?
These movements are called 'stims' and they can keep us nicely grounded and calm. It's not that weird really - most people have go to tics and habits when nervous after all. Children may have quite obvious or 'odd' stims but give them a break! 16/?
Stims will be particularly useful over Christmas as it's so damnably stressful, so expect them and accept them. Same with comfort blankets and toys/trinkets. I usually have a lego minifigure in my pocket, for example. 17/?
It is possible that the extra people, lights, food, noises, expectations and lack of ability to use coping strategies will lead to burnout, or a meltdown. This is where our stalwart efforts to stay cool are overcome by stimuli, like Orcs at Helms Deep. 18/?
Everyone experiences this differently but a meltdown can be, for the person living it: terrifying, panicking, totally exhausting, embarrassing, even dangerous (think hurting yourself). It's bloody horrible. 18/?
For other people around a meltdown, it can be scary, upsetting and a real downer on the mood generally. But remember, it is WORSE for the person having the meltdown, so be kind and minimise their sense of embarrassment. 19/?
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