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Autism & Thanksgiving: Where's My Pizza?


Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the many blessings we are given throughout the year.  For our family, Thanksgiving has become a holiday more for the adults but not so much the kids due to food issues.  As many parents of autism know, our kids can be super picky eaters.  So what if your child is not at all thrilled to see the giant Turkey and asks, "Where's my pizza???"

After 12 years with autism, we try to keep the "thanks" in Thanksgiving and make the holiday less traditional.  Our focus is more about family and relaxation.  Sure, it would be great to see the family sitting around the dining table looking like a Norman Rockwell painting...listening to my kids politely ask for turkey and gravy all the while marveling at Mom's cooking skills.   But hey, that is not life in our household.

Yes, we give thanks for our blessings.  Yes, we try to sit least until the kids get through their dinner and ask to leave.  Yes, conversation is nice but was not generally expected from my son when he was younger.  Now that my son is better able to engage in conversation, I do try to press for at least a few volleys of interesting discussion.  But in all honestly, autism has taught me to loosen my ideas about how holidays should be for our family.

So maybe that means a shorter dinner.  Maybe that  means macaroni and cheese or pizza on the menu for my Aspie who does not like Turkey or any other carved meat.  It may also mean that my neurotypical sons, who are now adults, expect corn niblets instead of mashed potatoes.  It is just a matter of time before my neurotypical  daughter will making requests.
Sure, our Thanksgiving dinners are different.  But every family is different.  Being different is what makes us all special and makes life interesting.  Despite the challenges, a family affected by autism can adjust to life and very much enjoy the holidays.

So back to the question...What happens when your child isn't thrilled by the taste of the delicious Thanksgiving meal in front of them or gets overstimulated by the holiday scene?  Perhaps redefining expectations during the holidays is the key.  Try not to worry about what holiday traditions are expected of you and focus on how to make Thanksgiving doable and fun for your family. Sometimes we are so focused on how inflexible autism can make our kids that we don't realize how inflexible we are becoming.  Whether it is something you expect to do or expect to eat, be prepared to be extra flexible so you can have a happy, less stressful, thankful day.  

I am pretty sure that I, like most Moms, won't be having a stress free day.  But I will be eating lots of Turkey...and I am pretty sure my son will be eating at least one slice of pizza...and I will be having a few laughs with my husband and kids.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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