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Christmas With Autism, by Natalie Bohay

Every December, no matter how old I get, I would look forward to Christmas. It is an exciting time for you and me. It is about sharing the memories and the good times with our relatives and friends as well as with the people we love and care about, especially when we reminisce about the moments from past Christmases.


On the other hand, with all of the exhilaration and anticipation of the big day ahead, there is much to be done--the baking, the gift shopping, the decorating and the shopping. Also, during this time of year, there are the movies, the television specials, the theatrical productions, the Nativity plays, the Christmas music, the festive gatherings, the Santa Clauses at the mall, the light displays and the candy. Then, there is the giving--that is, buying clothes, toys and other things for less fortunate folks or dropping money into a container for them. All of this fun and excitement pertaining to Christmas--the festooned trees, the lovely presents, the delightful Yuletide tunes, the amusing toys in the stores (yes, even that battery-powered model train that is running on the tiny tracks), the delectable sweets and the awesome wonder of it all--never ceases to bring me joy and be a child again every time, even as I grow older.


However, during this time when we become so preoccupied in these preparations for the holiday, we tend to forget or ignore the fact that some of the best gifts are the ones that do not come in packages, wrapped in pretty paper, fine ribbons and colorful bows. One of them and most importantly was a Child, said to have been born over two millennia ago in Bethlehem, and it all started with that Child. As some would come to believe, that Child was no ordinary child. Rather, He was a very special Child, Who possessed extraordinary gifts were sure to awe and inspire those He loves. That Child was born to love that He would give us the gift of His love to us and thus, He would help us come to know what love truly is, as well as bring back innocence to a world that has lost it. He brought hope to those who seek it and long for it. In every age and even to this day, He continues to do so by being the eternal light of everlasting hope and perpetual joy to the world.


Similarly, our children with autism as well as those with other special needs are these special gifts we can take for granted. These exceptional children themselves also have gifts of their own to share with us. Like Baby Jesus, they are sure to bring joy to a world yearning for hope, goodness and happiness to us and those around us. Whether it is having a unique sense of humor, singing songs, playing a musical instrument, preparing a savory dish or a dessert to pass, doing a painting, solving math problems, saying something intriguing and amazing or simply smiling at the people they encounter, these special individuals, along with their personality traits, aptitude and talents, bring that gift of joy to us and to them. It can also be faith and/or hope, particularly in God. Perhaps, for certain ones, it can be the innocence, especially when it is of a child, that may lie within them. For some of us, it can a little more time--and maybe a little more patience, if possible--to discover what gifts do our special needs children have.


As a person with Asperger's Syndrome and an individual who tries to live up to her name by loving Christmas and being born quite close to that wondrous day, I as well have gifts to share with others. I am spreading my own kind of joy to others by giving hugs and kisses to them, saying kind words to them, especially when their loved ones pass onto eternity, writing cards for them and giving them gifts. At home and in the community, I am spreading the Christmas joy, whether it is during this wonderful time of year or any day of the year.  There is the gift of autism as well. If it was not for autism, I would not able to do what most folks can do such as knowing many bits of information or staying within the faith in which I was raised. That I consider a gift from God. With a birthday two days before Christmas, I would be seen as being the early Christmas gift that God gave to my parents. I hope that we will all see our exceptional sons and daughters, regardless of whatever special needs they have, as gifts of joy from God. May the Child Jesus, Who was, is and will be the special Child and the special gift of joy to all of us, inspire us to embrace the beauty and joy of the special gift, our special needs children and bring to our hearts timeless gifts of hope, wisdom, peace, happiness, light, comfort and love. I wish you all "Merry Christmas" and a Happy New Year.

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