The holidays are rough for a lot of us. A lot of expectations and traditions that are counterproductive in a neurodivergent context.
If I may, I think there are three things going on for me during holidays. Being transparent of these differences can be helpful in coming to a mutual understanding.
1) I understand the premise of reconnecting and bonding time and the rituals that feature in the neurotypical way of doing things. And whilst connecting is important to neurodivergent folk as well, without accommodation, it can cause the disconnection and friction instead. For example; planning a group outing without including the needs of the other ends up feeling … like you are not being included. Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance; (Belonging is having a place on the planning committee).
2) Forced interaction, without built-in recharge time, is damaging for us hugely. Often it leads to meltdowns, arguments and an erosion of trust. You wouldn’t continue to go on a kite flying activity if thunderstorms rolled in – so why would you insist on Disney World during the holidays season for autistic folks without sensory breaks built in. For friday night drinks in a noisy bar just because “that’s the way everyone else does it”?
3) Parallel play is intimate play. I’m understanding more and more that this is not only an autistic child development thing. Perhaps it’s due to heightened awareness of the other person and thanks for the deceased social load; perhaps it’s just that we don’t have to be made of social hierarchies and continual reinforcement; nevertheless doing things together but separate is legitimate.
Speaking of inclusion in holidays Ludmila Praslova PhD wrote a great piece on LinkedIn about sharing the holiday period inclusively. It’s a very broad in it’s thoughts of being inclusive, something I’m working on being in myself (you can read the full article here).