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How, ‘Elf on the Shelf’, has Helped my Daughter with Autism

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

There seems to be quite a new tradition among families for something called Elf on the shelf.

From what I understand the story goes that Santa sends one of his Elfs to check children are behaving leading up to Christmas Day, but meantime the Elf, or on some cases even Elves, misbehave to the amusement of the children every morning.

I am all for having fun with my children so thought about joining in on the craze. But like most autism mums I decided I had more than enough on my plate last year to find time for Elf adventures.

But then my daughter came across Elf on the Shelf herself this year. She watched something on you tube about it and heard friends at school talking about it. She already knows she is different and is desperate to be included.

So I reluctantly agreed and searched for an Elf.

I decided if I was going to do this it would have to be used to help my daughter rather than just for the sake of it. So I invented our loving and giving Elf to help my daughter with autism through the added stress of December, a month she usually really struggles with.

Day 1 of Elf was simple with Elf giving her a little money for her school fair but also giving her two snacks for school so she could find a friend and share one.

Having something to give to another child is such a simple way to help her overcome her social anxiety so even though I knew she would struggle to speak she was able to simply hand another child this small gift.

"Elf on the shelf", helped her to make a friend.

Day 2 involves sharing through the fact I help out a t a toddler group and Elf asked her to share some play food with them.

This helped her think about others and to be part of something social without the added stress of having to be there herself.

Day 3 Elf left her some coins and asked her to do some secret shopping on his behalf to buy for seven people of her choosing at a pound shop. This helped her with theory of mind as she had to think what other people make enjoy getting rather than something she herself would like. It also developed her independence as she paid for the items with her own money.

Day 4 we gave food to a food bank helping her to be part of a bigger community.

Day 5 Elf helped her in a very personal way as her brother with very complex health needs had a trip to hospital which upset her routine and caused her anxiety to soar. Elf knew just the thing to help her refocus so left her a book just for her.

And so each day she wakes up to a note from her Elf with a task or a message of some meaning which in turn helps her to focus for the day, helps encourage her to be socially aware and allows her to feel included in society.

By using a kindness and giving Elf her confidence has increased and she has become far more aware of all that Christmas means. The most exciting thing for me now as we enter the double figures in Elf days is that she herself is now looking and thinking for things her Elf could do. She has suggested taking clothes she has outgrown to a charity shop tomorrow and helping mummy around the house.

The whole concept of the Elf being naughty never sat well with me as her brother has severe none verbal autism and she hears too many people call him naughty daily. I never ever wanted her to think Santa would not visit her brother.

But it is possible to turn anything around and I am so proud of how my daughter has developed since introducing our own brand of Elf on the Shelf.

She said to me yesterday,

"Isn't Elf amazing mum! There's no way YOU could think up all that!"

And that is the magic of it all right there.

Are you struggling to get your child to do therapy or cope with anxiety around Christmas? Maybe an Elf and a little Christmas magic could come to your rescue too...


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