Is Santa's beard too bushy? Having a happy disability Christmas

Santa's beard

It's nearly Christmas and all across the world, disabled people and their families are making videos and writing blog posts giving a glimpse of how they're celebrating the festive season that little bit differently.

Here is a selection.


It's the perfect time of year to watch home videos of little ones being cute and tugging at the heart strings. These three from the US fit the bill.

  • Three-year-old Grace Anna Rodgers has the rare genetic disorder Conradi Hunermann syndrome which affects facial bones and results in short stature. She has become a bit of a YouTube sensation duetting with her mum on much-loved classic songs. Their performance of the US national anthem has received 17,000 views and this rendition of Silent Night is catching up fast.
  • The Dyslexia Song is, in essence, a long list of famous people who have dyslexia, performed with vigour by nine-year-old Caleb Kleinfeldt and his brother Adin, 11, to the tune of comedy actor Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song. The Kleinfeldt family rewrote the ditty to make the brothers feel better after both were diagnosed with dyslexia. It includes names like Whoopi Goldberg, Orlando Bloom, Henry "Fonz" Winkler and Albert Einstein (although some dispute Einstein's diagnosis).
  • And then there's this unnamed little girl from Florida, enthusiastically signing an entire kindergarten Christmas concert, so that her deaf parents can follow it. In this post-Mandela era of sign language scrutiny, commentators on the video familiar with ASL (American Sign Language) say that she does a really good and "expressive" job of some hardy perennials like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells.

Father Christmas

There's some mild confusion in the deaf community over who Santa is, and what he says.

  • Children of deaf adults are known as codas. Interestingly, signing is often their first language because it's what their parents use. As a result, codas are often very close to the deaf community. Adult coda Matt Dixon wrote for The Limping Chicken online magazine this week about what it is like to be a hearing child of deaf parents, and the disappointment on discovering Santa wasn't deaf (as Christmas events at the local deaf club had led him to believe).
  • And should Santa shave his beard so hearing-impaired children should hear him? That's one suggestion in 10 tips for a more inclusive Christmas, a blog by Charlie Swinbourne. "Deaf children who visit Father Christmas are often underwhelmed, because his bushy beard obscures everything he says," writes Swinbourne.

Just adjust

Image caption Signing "Merry Christmas" (in ASL)

Santa isn't the only one who might need to make adjustments for disabled children at Christmas, as two bloggers attest.

  • Katherine Kowalski, who writes about her disabled son - nicknamed Orange - on her blog Orange This Way, says he can't physically open the little doors on an advent calendar, or understand the messages inside. To address this, his family have created a sensory advent box. It contains things that he can squeeze, shake and put in his mouth, which evoke textures, tastes, smells, sights and sounds of the season. In this video you can watch him enjoy getting to grips with the offering on day six, a Candy Crane, as assisted by his big sister (whom they call The Beep).
  • John Williams writes a blog about being a single dad to his autistic son. The things they do every Christmas, like decorating the tree, remind John of how far his 11-year-old has come. In years gone by, the tree used to be "pulled down every other day", writes John. This doesn't happen any more: "The tree has become part of our routine like everything else. The same tree, with the same decorations, in the same place."

Wrap it up

What would Christmas be without presents? And what would presents be without wrapping paper? Some would say much better.

  • Kevin Healey, who has autism, told the Ouch talk show how wrapping gifts is a noisy, sticky nightmare for him because of his sensitivities to textures and sound.
  • Jonathan Stevens has Parkinson's and, like Healey, he has trouble with gift wrapping but that's because he can't remove it. In his blog, A Dialogue with Parkinson's and Other Diseases, he writes: "You kneel down and pick up the first present... but that's when the problems start. Your tremor starts again and it is difficult to move your rigid fingers. You try to hold the present in your left hand and tear at a loose bit of wrapping paper with your right hand but every part of you moves so slowly (except the tremor; such is the dichotomy of Parkinson's) that you eventually drop the present."

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