Andy opening his present 

Kevin's 15 year-old son, Andy, is autistic. As a family, they’ve created the most viewed and most subscribed to YouTube channel about autism in the UK.

Andy was identified as autistic at a very young age – his health visitor had concerns due to his developmental delay, and he was diagnosed before he started school.

A perfect Christmas for our family would be spread out over a week.

What is Christmas like at your house?

It’s a very typical Christmas, with one big exception – Andy needs to know his present(s) in advance – he hates surprises, and also struggles with wanting more than one thing at a time. Every year we get him a pile of presents roughly equivalent in size to his two neurotypical sisters, and every year almost all of it is ignored apart from the one thing he really wanted – last year it was an ATM cash machine toy that he’d been asking for for months, and we just kept telling him he’d get it at Christmas. On Christmas day we got other presents too, but he only cared about the ATM!

How has your Christmas changed over time?

We’ve learned to spread his gifts out over a number of days, and also that it’s better to get him gift vouchers for shops like Amazon or Tesco that sell just about everything he could want.  That way we can put them to one side and when he decides he wants something in February or March, rather than having to wait for his birthday or Christmas, the vouchers are there to get him something he really wants when he really wants it.

Do you have to make changes to a ‘traditional’ Christmas?

We sometimes have a bit of a battle taking the decorations down because Andy loves the lights so much! We also sometimes only wrap one side of a present, especially if it’s something he’s not expecting, so that he’s not taken too much by surprise but still gets to join in with the unwrapping. 

The big difference is spreading family get togethers out more than we used to. Christmas used to be a two to three day get together across multiple houses with all the family there all the time. But the most Andy can cope with is three to four hours in one go, and often needs a recovery day between events. So if we have a big Christmas dinner with family, we won’t then have a party with family later that day, or probably even the next day. We still see everyone, but in smaller doses and spread out fairly evenly between Christmas and New Year.

How do the challenges you face at Christmas make you and Andy feel?

The biggest struggle for Andy at Christmas is the change to his normal routine, both at school and at home. School becomes a lot less structured in the run up to Christmas, which he really doesn’t like.  Then his school routine is taken away completely when the holidays start, and then with all the festivities his routine is changed again – bedtimes change, we might go and visit family on a weekday when we’d normally do it at the weekend, everything is different – even the house looks different, and he does sometimes find that really hard to handle.

How do you envision a perfect Christmas?

A perfect Christmas for our family would be spread out over a week. It’d still include lots of family meals, parties, presents and fun, but would also include equal amounts of quiet time, rest time, and normal routine. The most important thing is to make sure Andy knows what is happening and when well in advance. We use a three-week planner with him on a whiteboard all year, so he always knows what he’s doing on what days. As long as we tell him well enough in advance, he’s generally fine with anything in small doses.

Do you have any Christmas tips for families or autistic people?

Don’t try to shoehorn an autistic person into a “traditional Christmas” − it’s better for the whole family in the long run to work out what a good Christmas for your family looks like.

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Watch Kevin’s videos from last Christmas

Christmas present opening

Christmas dinner

His favourite Christmas movie

Autism parents Christmas guide