I wanted to share some insight about how far Pamela has come in her ability to enjoy a full-blown large-family Christmas celebration without going into meltdown. Much of the credit goes to the Glasers and the Kings, who are the most supportive group of people anyone could desire.
First, you will notice as you watch and hear the clips that Pamela is surrounded by noise: seventeen people sometimes all talking at once in three languages (English, German, and Spanish), several speaking to Pamela at one time, plus the music in the background.
Second, you need to know that Pamela stayed through the entire celebration from beginning to end: she sat through the Christmas readings, listened to the Christmas carols (she was too hoarse to sing), and even contributed by signing "Silent Night" for everyone--can you say tissue moment? Then, she had no problems waiting patiently as each one of us opened presents, one by one, individually to allow us all to share in one another's joy.
Finally, you must know that Pamela could not have managed this with so much ease and enjoyment in her early childhood. From 1991 through 1994, Pamela coped with very large family gatherings by spending time in her escape hatch. At Great-Grandma's house, she played with the dolls under the bed in the guest room. At Tia Janet's, she studied the videos stored in Alyson's room. At Grandma's house, she sat on the bed in the master bedroom and watched television. She spent most of the time flitting around the room with her ears plugged and bolting to her escape hatch for peace and quiet. She had the occasional meltdown when we were too much for her. That last large family Christmas gathering was 1999 and she still needed lots of downtime.
Second of Twelve Gifts: Happy, But Not Joy
In this clip, Pamela received a Sweet Slumbers Bedtime Set. She is happy but does not rock in joy as you will see in later clips. Pamela briefly shows the gift to her grandmother on the left.
Eleventh of Twelve Gifts: Obviously Joyful
Pamela had asked for some kind of Moon Sand kit and was very delighted with the Moon Sand Pet Shop kit, selected due to her love of all things animals. Pamela smiles brightly and responds very nicely to a request to see her present. Then, she rocks to express her joy more completely.
First of Twelve Gifts: Surprised and Joyful
Pamela references beautifully in this gift from her Oma and Opa. The stuffed animal is contained in a plastic bag, and Pamela is unsure of how to open it. She thinks she can rip into the bag, but she turns to me and her Oma for reassurance. Once she realizes it is a huge Winnie-the-Pooh, she turns back to us again to share her joy with us, hugs her bear, and rocks in excitement.
Last of Twelve Gifts: Extreme Joy
Pamela waited patiently all night for Baby Alive, which we saved until the end. Pamela tells us that she plans to watch PBS Kids (which she does every weekday at noon) with her new baby. She was so excited that she carefully stood up and had to release her joy in a "victory lap." Many people with autism find ways to express joy physically like a football player does an end zone dance.
As promised, Pamela sits down every weekday at noon with her baby to watch PBS Kids for an hour. She has informed me that we now have FIVE members of our family, where there were previously four. She plans to celebrate New Year's Eve and Leap Day with her baby. When pressed for a name, she says, "No name" or "Baby Alive!"
Tomorrow, I plan to cover what tips have helped Pamela learn to enjoy herself, even in large gatherings. I will close with the gift that gave ME great joy: Jane Austen the Illustrated Library. This nine-pound book contains all six books with sketches and color plates and large enough print for Steve to read.