John and Mike have made beautiful and very special advent calendars this year. 

The calendars, which have been created with the help of John and Mike's team of support staff, are rather unique in that as well as the traditional chocolate, each day there is also a Christmas-themed activity such as making a seasonal decoration, singing a festive carol or watching a Christmas movie. Once the fun activity is complete, Mike and John enjoy their advent chocolate treat!  

Ali Burnett, Service Manager, and the support team for Aspens' West Sussex Outreach and Supported Living have worked together to develop this method of support over the last few years. 

Ali says: "Mike and John are brothers and live together in their own home.  Aspens provide them with round-the-clock support to enable the brothers to live safely and independently. Mike and John have always had very different feelings around Christmas. They both enjoy Christmas, however John can feel anxious about things that might happen in the future and can struggle with the concept of 'now and later'. Because of this, like for many others with Autism and learning disabilities, Christmas can be an anxiety-provoking time for him.  Mike, also has Autism and Learning disabilities, but is able to process the concept and build up to Christmas without so many anxieties."

"We decided to address this and find a way to make Christmas a happier time for all. We came up with the idea of the personalised advent calendars that slowly introduces the idea of Christmas and build the activities up very gradually, leaving things such as decorating the tree or wrapping presents until later in the month."

"We have been doing this for several years now, and have found that Christmas is a much easier time for both brothers now. The calendars have reduced John's anxiety and meant that Mike can still enjoy the build up to Christmas. It has been such a success that we have been able to introduce a Christmas tea party with John, Mike, support team and the brother's mum."

We are currently running our #AuSomeAdvent Elf on the Shelf campaign on our social media, which has top tips for those with learning disabilities and autism on how to cope with some of the issues Christmas can bring for those affected by these conditions. Find out more here.