Friday, 22 June 2012

Home again.....

Well we made it!  And we had a really great time!!!  The kids eventually did great, and so did John and I.  The first 48 hours were touch and go (well honestly, a little bit more go).  At one point John looked at me and said "I want to go home".  To put it bluntly, Jack was a nightmare those first few days.  We are often able to fool ourselves into believing that he is adjusting "well" to new situations.  Until we actually take him and put him in a truly unfamiliar place.  I could not leave the room without him sobbing, if one of us went out on the deck he screamed bloody murder.  We tried to take a drive around the resort that first night and he cried the entire time.  ANY bug that happened to fly by would lead to a major meltdown.  So we made the decision (and the crappy weather helped us with this) to basically stay at the condo those first 24 hours.  Nate and I took a few walks, John took a drive to check out the fishing situation, but we kept Jack as stable as possible.  We watched movies, read books, ordered delivery, brought everything familiar we could think of to calm him.  And I would say that eventually he became pretty comfortable.  Poor guy....I certainly can relate to feelings of anxiety, but he really seems to completely freeze at times.  John and I have made some major parenting decisions based on this recently, and we looked at each other this week and both commented on how glad we are that we protected him in the way that we did.  There are certain things he just cannot handle.

                               Pluses to this indoor time?  We discovered that Natey LOVES elmo!   And look at Natey, he climbed up to snuggle with his brother!

On the second day, we were starting to fall into what I like to call our "family funk".  John and I have a history of allowing Jack's demands to rule the roost and he had decided he didn't want to go anywhere.  It was only 72 degrees the second day we were there, but there is an outdoor heated pool at the resort, and I decided I wouldn't take no for an answer- we were going!  I dragged them all to the car and off we went.  It was a turning point for all of us...Jack realized this was fun after all and we discovered that both boys are little fishies.  They LOVED the pool...think we will join our local pool this summer after all....we were going to hold off.  Jack continues to narrate his entire life out anyone who will listen, and some who won't.  To the lifeguard (in the first five minutes):  Are you a lifeguard?  Do you save people?  Is that your chair?  Are you a boy?  where's your shirt?  Watch this!  Wait, watch this!  Do you swim?

I feel terrible about some assumptions I used to make in my late teens and early twenties when I was a nanny.  Wherever I took the kids I was watching, we would always run into a child that would just "latch on" to me and want to tell me their entire life story.  I always thought these kids were not being listened to at home, that they didn't have anyone else to talk to, that maybe they were even neglected.  I guess that could be true in a few cases, but I have a whole new perspective these days.  Jack literally has no off switch, or volume for that matter.  He NEVER stops talking.  I know many parents may nod their heads at this and say, my kid too!  No really......NEVER STOPS.  All of his "lines" were new to the people we ran into at the pool or the beach- which was thrilling for him.  So the comments would be "wow, he's really smart" (after reciting bunches of airplanes, or correcting a parent about the "lizard" floaty toy- excuse me, but that's a newt).  We listen to him at home, we talk to him, we encourage him.  There never comes a time when he is done talking about his areas of interest.  He could go on literally forever.  Once again, I am learning to let go of my worries that he is annoying these strangers.  They have the ability to walk away right?  And he's not being rude at all, just very very very talkative.  And he really made some people laugh with his quotes.  At one point he asked a mom about her little boy "is he a baby?", and she responded yes.  Then he said "I am way too young to have to worry about babies".  He had all the grandparents who were quietly reading their books in stitches-- and yes he was quoting a movie.  

So he swam and swam, and had a blast.  He LOVES the beach even more than previous years, and John and I were able to enjoy having him there a lot more.  He is not as "dangerous" as he used to be, he understands his limits...think we only got pulled down in the undertow maybe twice.  Nathan was more cautious than we expected, hallelujah!  He really held on to us whenever he was near the water, and seemed to prefer the sand and digging to the ocean.  Fine by me!!!!  His biggest obsession this week was.......pine needles.  A variation on the sticks that he collects around home.  He played with them on our deck for hours, and there were some at the beach and the pool so he pretty much had one in his hand at all times.  Really reminded me of Jack's previous grass "obsession".  One rough moment for me came at the pool when a parent asked me if he had some "delays".  She was very nice about it, and I was honest, I told her he has autism.  She had a little boy who was 18 months old who was talking a blue streak and played catch with me for like 10 minutes.  John and I both are dreading getting this question more and more.  So far, Nate has been close enough to a "baby" that not many people have noticed his delays and other issues.  But he is getting bigger, he is more of a little boy who can't speak.  And it is becoming more obvious to others that he has issues.  We need to brace ourselves for this....we had a long talk about it this week.   We can handle it, just hard to have issues you are working on so hard pointed out to you, especially when your child is perfect in your eyes.

If you look at my pictures from the trip, it might seem like Nate did nothing but sleep.....couldn't be further from the truth!  He just slept anywhere but in his bed at night!  He has officially boycotted the pack and play in favor of mom and dad's nice comfy bed.  He passed out everywhere we went in the evening because he never took a real nap.  Thank God that when we got home today he went down for a nap in his bed-3 hours!

The resort was great- lots of good options for the boys- a pool and baby pool less than a block from the condo and the ability to drive right up to the beach, park in a resort lot, and walk right on.  Perfect for the kids.  We even managed to log a little individual time for mommy and daddy- outlet mall for mommy and fishing for daddy.  And we went out to dinner 3 TIMES without incident.  That being said, we bribed our children- with illegal food.  I would say I am ashamed of myself, but sometimes peace comes at a price, and this week I was willing to pay it.  So Nate likes calamari, sue me!  John and I have found a "rhythm" when it comes to caring for the boys, we are working much more effectively as a team these days, and boy is that nice.  We have had lots of deer in the headlights moments these past few years, and while there are many more to come I am sure, there has been major improvement.  Eases the stress more than I can say.

Just in case you are wondering, this is Jack "crossing his eyes".  Really, you gotta be there to understand just how freaking hilarious this is!

So over all, a great trip!  My biggest tips for traveling with 2 small children on the autism spectrum?  Many are similar to traveling with any small children, just magnified, but several stand out.

1.  Make NO plans for at least those first 48 hours....give the kids time to adjust
2.  Plan, plan, plan....for us, this meant preparing for the diet, locating "quiet" places to take the boys since Jack has many auditory sensitivities, timing meals just so, respecting the boys' needs at all times
3.  Choose a destination relatively close to home- 3 hours was just about meltdowns in the car!
4.  Keep it simple- we didn't do any amusement parks, we avoided shops with the favorite moment of the entire trip?  A ten minute stretch on the beach....the whole family just holding hands in the surf.  What could be better than that?
5.  Don't let fear rule the day-  talking about MY fear.....what's the worst that can happen?  The kids lose it....we'll still wake up tomorrow and it will be a new day.  The best part?  We know no one!!!
6.  Talk!  Talk to your child about where you are going, for how long, what you will do, who you will see....knowing what to expect is huge for kids on the spectrum
7.  Go during the "off" season---- less crowded is such a major plus when dealing with autism
8.  Pack like you are heading into battle (because you are)....I have always been an overpacker, and it is now a major positive....God forbid I had forgotten Jack's mustang!  
9.  If a special accommodation will help your child- ask!  We were going to take a shuttle to the beach (think about it- hot, waiting 20 minutes each time, dragging the beach equipment long distances...), and my brilliant husband suggested I call the resort line to ask about beach parking instead- this cut out a whole "unknown" for the boys and I have no doubt that it helped us avoid multiple meltdowns.  
10.  As with all things.....breathe deeply and if worse comes to worse, bring a BIG bottle of wine. The kids will fall asleep eventually!

1 comment:

  1. When I grew up (and still is today... since I live at home with them), I have to roll with whatever they choose whenever my family goes out in public. When we went back to Hong Kong (now is a pretty sensory overwhelming place for me even though I lived there for 11 years) this past winter break for 2 weeks, for example, we went out to walk around Hong Kong no more than 1-2 hours after we landed there and arrived at the place we were staying during the vacation.

    The only reason why my parents did that is because I am a very easy going child for someone with autism and there is an unwritten expectation that I have to obey my parents' wishes whenever possible. For some other parents, what my parents did for the Hong Kong trip, however, could be a recipe for disaster- considering how crowded the streets there can be during the holidays and the need to adjusted to cars that may not yield to pedestrians.