The Marshall family photo with Christmas quote graphic


With just under a month to go until Christmas, we catch up with Ben and Kathryn, whose son Alex was the star of our first ever TMI campaign video.

They chat to us about their version of a perfect Christmas, the challenges they face, and the importance of staying stocked up on mince pies! 

What is Christmas like at your house?

We bought our puppy a squeaky Santa toy last year and he was frightened of it so he barked at it a lot! (He likes it now!).

Do you have to make changes to a 'traditional' Christmas?

We try to make Christmas quiet and relaxing but fun for both the boys. We cook the turkey on Christmas Eve so Christmas Day is less busy. We don't have family round on Christmas Day - just us and the boys.

How do the challenges you may face at Christmas make you and your family feel?

The run up to Christmas can be very intense but also exciting. When Alex was younger it felt very pressurised. School would be focussed on Christmas preparations which meant the pattern of the normal school day would be disrupted leading to increased anxiety and frustration. There was an expectation that all children would find activities such as card making and singing Christmas songs fun. There were no normal routines to give structure to the day. The disruption caused increased anxiety which made home life more stressful. We are now fortunate that Alex is at secondary school where Christmas seems to be much better integrated into the normal school day!

There is a lot of pressure to ensure that Christmas Day runs perfectly. It is a very special day, and because of the hype and focus on it starting so early, it becomes a day that has to go really well. If it doesn't Alex could get very frustrated and upset. We have to make sure that the day is properly structured, that we have bought the right present, and also understand if Alex needs to take a little bit of time out. We don't see family on Christmas Day, instead seeing them shortly after Christmas. We try to make sure that it is fun but relaxed at the same time. We also have to make sure that we don't run out of mince pies!

How do you envision a perfect Christmas?

A perfect Christmas is where everyone is happy and relaxed.

Have you been supported by the National Autistic Society?

Yes. Obviously we have been involved in TMI which also proved to be a great support to the family. We've used information on the website, particularly about siblings, best practice in schools etc. We're members of the local branch and feel we get a lot of support through that, particularly through the Facebook page.

There is a song ''the most wonderful time of the year''. What would you say Christmas is to you?

Not sure how to answer this as it varies from year to year! Sometimes it's very intense but often it's very special!

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