I have a small confession to make about autism. When it comes to birthdays and holidays my children do not exchange gifts.
My daughters often make cards and fashion presents at such times, unprompted and generally unappreciated, but even persuading the boys write their own names on a shop bought card, has proved a challenge. This fact dawns upon me one morning. I realize that we have spent our time concentrating on receiving a gift graciously, because this is a social issue with dire consequences. Whilst there can be many humiliating experiences in life, when a gift is firstly ignored, later rejected and later still, destroyed, we are aware of the hurt this causes to the giver. It effectively doubles the pain. The receiver fails to behave appropriately, the giver is mystified.
In some American homes, the present opening section of a party is almost a formal ritual. Even quite young children patiently open each gift, express pleasure and delight and then verbally thank the giver. It is quite a feat to witness.
Last year as children gathered for my own daughter’s birthday party, I was there to see her joy and grace in this ritual. She had learned this from a peers, a lesson she should have learned at home.
Even now, we are careful to ensure that opening presents is a private affair with the boys, direct family only, so that no-one can witness the fall out. I recall previous attempts to overcome this deficit by any manner of means, but all with equal measure of failure. I know that they are now older, we need to pick up the gauntlet again.
I appreciate that I have failed to address this matter. I find it hard to fathom why this should be? I suspect that in part, it is because it is quite an advanced social skill, although I would not have said that a decade ago. A decade ago I would have said it was simply ‘good manners,’ a pre-requisite for every body on the planet. These days, I understand that some bodies have more fundamental hurdles to overcome, like dressing, eating with or without cutlery, toileting and speaking.
I need to think of something ‘doable.’
In an ideal situation, they would spend their pocket money or allowance on presents, but money is a poor motivator for the boys. Homemade would always be my first choice for any gift, as it demonstrates the love and effort which make a gift a true gift, but my children’s hands are not gifted.
I pull out an old book, one that I’m very fond of, a gift from my Granny, the one that my daughter refers to as ‘the man in drag cookbook.’ I have never seen it that way: the child looks like I did once. The woman next to her is the epitome of everyone’s granny, kindly, friendly and familiar, although I wish she’d put that sieve over the bowl.
Now all I need to do is engineer or carve out an hour with each child, one on one, so that they can create candy to give to the other 6 members of our direct family, when the day finally comes.
I’ll keep you posted.