Let me preface this by saying a few things…yes, he is almost twelve years old; yes, he is in sixth grade; yes, both of his siblings know about Santa; yes, he still fully believes in Santa and everything that goes with that. Also, this child is breaking me in so many ways lately.
We have an Elf on the Shelf, Scoutie. He’s been around about five years now, maybe six. As with any mythical creature who shows up or moves about the house when we’re asleep, Scoutie can give Little Man anxiety. But he loves him. He writes notes to Santa via Scoutie all the time, and some notes directly to Scoutie. He is thrilled every morning to find Scoutie’s new location. It’s really, like many other things we deal with in autism land, a double-edged sword.
So, Scoutie is watching and reporting back to Santa on the behavior in our household. Little Man knows this fall has been particularly challenging, and he’s had his struggles with us over homework, as well as the lashing out and yelling. With our guy, there is a usually-noticeable difference between autistic behaviors/outbursts/meltdowns and making definite, manipulative choices. We’re working on ALL of it, trust me. But when my baby comes to me, tears in his eyes, asking, “Does Santa know I’m autistic? I’m trying, but I know I haven’t been very good lately.” Oh jeez….killing me smalls. I told him Santa knows his heart, knows he’s trying, knows he’s working things. (does this mean we have a Santa IEP?) Little Man got a note from Scoutie this morning confirming what I’d explained. He was so relieved, he’s carrying the note around with him.
I know we could relieve a ton of anxiety if we told him. We know we are reaching the point we will need to have that conversation. It’s so hard when your kids, all of them, grow up past this part of childhood. I know part of me is hanging onto him still believing because I don’t want to let go. But for obvious, multiple reasons, we need to talk with him about it. It will alleviate some of his worries and anxiety. But I know it will also make him so sad.
Any of you with ASD kiddos, how have you handled any of this…..anxiety over thinking behaviors will mean Santa won’t bring them anything, anxiety over an elf and/or Santa coming into the house while they’re sleeping, and telling them about Santa? A friend just started this conversation amongst a group of autism mommas – when to talk with your child about Santa. But I’m worrying over the rest of it too.
His fears for this year have been relieved. And I did tell him the truth – we know his heart, that most of his behavior is laid at the feet of autism. Santa knows, baby, trust me, he knows.