The "Full Of Life" blog is a place where we celebrate families affected by autism who are living life to the fullest and offer tips and tools for daily living. We often invite guest bloggers to join the conversation. This blog comes from Michael Borr, Chairman of Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM) and dad to Jonathan, a young man with autism. Michael shares what makes Thanksgiving special and unique for his family as they deal with the challenges of autism.
Having a child with autism can certainly make holidays an interesting time. Nancy and I have 2 boys, Eric who is 30 years old and Jonathan who is 26. Jonathan is on the autism spectrum and lives in a group home near us. Thanksgiving night is one of a dozen or so nights he sleeps home during the year. He is nonstop and has very little ability to modulate his own safety so when he’s home we have very little down time. Holidays can be very isolating for families impacted by ASD. After 26 years of celebrating them, we have figured out which friends and family have the patience to celebrate with us. Visiting others for the holiday can be a very risky proposition, so we always celebrate at home. Then there’s the question of how many is too many. In other words, the more people, the more commotion so how many and which guests can we have that won’t be too over stimulating to Jonathan creating the possibility of a behavioral meltdown.
Now I don’t want you to think it’s very serious the entire time….there are certain parts of the day we approach with humor and levity. For example, I have become quite proficient at carving a turkey! I have 3 minutes and 23 seconds to carve the turkey if I’m going to use an electric knife. You see Jonathan doesn’t exactly find the sound of our electric knife soothing (and I haven’t found one that will, so to speak, “run silent, run deep” and cut without making noise. Since the constant sound of the knife is agitating to him, I know I had better be almost finished by the 3 minute mark or I could be facing real trouble! That’s OK because I’ve learned to complete any task in close to light speed while keeping a vigilant eye over my shoulder as though I have eyes in the back of my head. On another note, crying babies visiting for the day can make things additionally challenging as we are always making sure, for everyone’s safety and well being, anything that could become a dangerous projectile is nailed down or not left around!
I’m sure I’m not leaving you with the impression that holidays are easy to celebrate because in our house they are nothing short of difficult, chaotic and exhausting. We maintain a level of vigilance that might not be necessary for your typical family. But please don’t mistake difficult and chaotic for unhappy! Holidays at the Borr household are warm, happy and inviting because of the levity we bring to the day. We’ve been dealing with autism for a long time and, although it’s not easy, we’ve frankly gotten pretty good at it. I consider it a remarkable testament to my wife and boys, leaving me nothing but tremendously proud of my family. Happy Thanksgiving to your family!
Thank you Borr family for showing how you are living life to the fullest this Thanksgiving! We want to hear from our readers too. What are your plans this holiday and how do you prepare?