“When it comes To Christmas, we always think of the naughty and nice list Santa has and as parents we use it to our advantage. Well, this year it was a major trigger for Riley’s anxiety.
Riley, who is now 6, was diagnosed with Autism when he was 2-years-old. He is non-verbal and has a lot of sensory issues. He doesn’t like loud noises, or bright lights, but what he does love is Christmas. He has been known to dress up as Santa, and loves nothing more than a Christmas song.
This year though was the first year he has had any concept of the naughty and nice list, and he has been so conscious that he is not naughty.
Since he cannot speak, Riley has learned to sign ‘Riley is good’ and for the last few weeks has been making sure to tell everyone he meets he is a good boy.
To us, it may seem cute, but it had really taken over his little brain, driving his anxiety sky high and causing him to look for reassurance time and time again.
Though he cannot speak, he can understand everything, and who better to tell him he is on the nice list, then Santa himself.
Santa Paddy did a home visit for us, knocking on the front door and making his way onto the couch next to Riley. Visits to Santa can be so overwhelming, for any child, but for an autistic child it can be too much. So Santa Paddy coming to our house meant Riley was so comfortable.
We didn’t have to worry about crowds, noise, lights or any other triggers. He was happy to have him in his house to sing songs, hear all about school and meet his My Canine Companion Autism Service Dog.
Then came the moment none of us were prepared for.
Santa told Riley he would go through the naughty and nice list with him.
And he made sure Riley knew he had nothing to worry about. He told him he knew he had been a good boy for mommy.
He gave him a certificate with his name on it, and spelled it out for him. Before saying the words ‘you made the nice list!’ The words that made everything OK again.
And his reaction said it all. It was what he had been waiting for.
He smiled, he jumped, he threw his arms in the air. In that moment Santa Paddy made sure he would not be anxious about it anymore. Something so small to us, is huge to a child with Autism.
And now instead of signing ‘Riley is good’ he is showing everyone his certificate. Because after all, if Santa said it, has to be true.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Duggan. Follow her journey here. Submit your story here. For our best love stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter or our YouTube channel.
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