Edmonds Kind of Dad: Christmas, twins and autism

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By David Kaufer

Anyone with kids knows how special Christmas and the holidays are for children. It really is fun to experience the season through their eyes – and to see the joy on their faces when they receive a long-desired (or surprise) gift.

As is the case with so many aspects of having twins – with one on the autism spectrum and the other one not – Christmas creates a kind of split screen kind of experience for Renee and I when it comes to Stone and Ty.

First, with Ty, the experience is pretty much everything you would want and expect from a 6-year-old. He still (thankfully) believes in Santa Claus so he could barely contain his excitement as Christmas approached. As a matter of fact, he was so excited about Santa arriving on Christmas morning that he appeared in our bedroom at 4:30 am whispering “I love you!” Renee tried to get him to go back to bed but the adrenaline was already pumping too hard. He confessed that he woke up because he heard reindeer hoofs on our roof. And so it was – they went downstairs at 5:30 and he quietly played with his toys while they waited for Stone and I to get up and emerge (which didn’t happen until 7:30 or so).

Because Ty was so into Santa Claus, we were able to have a lot of fun with him leading up to the big day – including having a personalized video sent to him from Santa Claus himself! And on Christmas Eve we also had him watching the Google/NORAD Santa Claus updates – which fired him up even more.

Stone still doesn’t quite understand the concept of Christmas (or Santa Claus) – but this was the first year he participated in the gift-opening experience. While he wasn’t in the room the whole time enjoying the experience as much as Ty (who happily played the role of elf delivering the presents around the room), Stone would come in when we called him and he even helped unwrap and open presents for the first time! And the few times he ran into snags (such as an overly taped wrapping job) he asked for help and watched to see what kind of toy emerged. And like many kids, he was less impressed with the new shirts (tossing them aside) and more excited with a new collection of “little people” and animals (he immediately took these to the kitchen table and began lining them up and playing with them).

Our family tradition is to open the majority of the presents Christmas Eve (those we give to each other) while Santa Claus delivers one to two “big” presents Christmas morning. After a long hiatus, Ty suddenly rediscovered his Kung Zhu toys in early November, so he had been fixated on a couple of accessories that are part of the collection – and was thrilled when he Santa came through (I really wish I was able to video his excitement and screaming!). For Stone, we decided to give him a giant wooden castle, because he really loves castles (he points them out during Little Einstein episodes and in books). We also thought he could use his new “little people” when he plays with it. And while Stone wasn’t quite as excited as Ty when we opened the new castle, he was very pleased with it and has spent time playing with it.

Interestingly, one of the presents both Stone and Ty have enjoyed the most was a last-minute impulse buy Renee and I made on Friday – a small slot car race track (featuring vehicles from Disney’s “Cars” movies). At first Stone was just happy watching the cars zipping around the figure-eight track. But after a while, he decided he wanted to try it out and picked up the controller and tried to figure out how to make the cars go. After a little coaching and demonstrating, he got the hang of it and was soon laughing and screaming as he was driving slot cars around the track like his brother Ty.

And so in the aftermath of Christmas, we’re like most other families – way too many empty cardboard boxes in our recycling bin and way too few batteries for all of the new toys. But most importantly, it was a great day sharing Christmas with both Ty and Stone – in their own, unique way.

David Kaufer is a fun-loving Super Dad of 6-year-old twin sons, an insane Oregon Ducks fanatic (follow him on Twitter @DavidKaufer), advocate for green/sustainability and autism issues, and connoisseur of Northwest microbrews. He and his wife Renee moved to Edmonds in 2005 to raise their family (and enjoy the gorgeous views).

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