The sun was shining Sunday afternoon and the thermometer read a balmy 40 degrees. A good day to stretch our legs at a nearby state park before the next storm hits in what feels like an endless winter. Clay, my wife, our basset hound Miles and I piled in the car with visions of clear trails running along the snow covered forest. Deer lapping quietly at the edge of the icy creek. Canada geese honking and splashing.
Turns out we weren’t the only ones with those visions.
Parents of a child with autism learn quickly that crowds are the enemy. Packed walkways, loud voices, restricted movement, stimulation from all sides. Meltdown. So, you go food shopping on Sunday nights. Visit carnivals and boardwalks early in the morning. Avoid malls, movie theaters, museums during peak times (or altogether). Don’t even get me started on Disney World.
Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you guess wrong.
The cars lining the road to the spot near a small waterfall where we like to walk were an ominous sign. The parking lot was full, but we were lucky enough to pull in behind a car that was leaving. Despite the crowd, Clay and Miles burst out of the car with the energy of a thousand suns. We decided to brave it.
This was the first trip to a park for our new dog since we adopted him last fall. We worked our way to the bridge that crosses the creek with Miles greeting all the other dogs, and there were lots of them—big and small—and happily rubbing slobber on anyone who wanted to pet him.
We were just headed up a hilly trail with people ahead of us and people coming in the other direction when Clay became agitated. Out came the keyboard he uses to communicate.
“What is wrong?” my wife typed.
“Headache,” Clay typed back. Code for: Too crowded. Too much activity. Head is spinning. Not having fun.
Message received. We dug a snack out of our backpack, and headed back to the car. We’ve learned the hard way not to fight the headache assessment. Didn’t turn out exactly the way we planned, but we had a great 15 minutes or so. No regrets.
Next stop, we guessed right.
Calculating that a non-sports bar restaurant would be deserted 30 minutes before the Super Bowl (we’re not big watchers of the game unless our team is involved), we pulled into a nearby chain for dinner. It was nearly empty. We settled down to a calm, peaceful dinner in a corner booth (restaurant nirvana). Took our time ordering. Even had a couple of cocktails. Clay ate everything in front of him. Serenity now.
Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you guess wrong. It’s nice when you guess right.
#1 by The Domestic Goddess on February 7, 2011 - 10:05 am
I time everything in accordance to the boy’s “schedule” because i know the alternative is just asking for it, setting ourselves up for failure. We go to stores late at night or early in the morning when we know no one else will be there. We go to indoor kid’s places after twelve because little kids take naps then. We go to events and carnivals on week nights because they are less crowded. Same with restaurants. Weird times are better for my Ian. I LOVE it when our favorite local pizza place is empty, he gets his favorite seat.
#2 by Larry Blumenthal on February 7, 2011 - 10:17 am
Ah, the voice of experience. Sage advice. That is why you are called the Goddess. Thanks for sharing.
#3 by colleen tarcza on February 7, 2011 - 12:40 pm
Since living here in the country I find it overwhelming to be around a gazillion people/crowds and excessive noise. I now try to avoid the masses when possible. Hence yesterday we walked on Asburys boardwalk/sat on a bench and enjoyed the Ocean. We also popped into a non sports bar restaurant at 4:30. We got a great ocean view table, we figured most people would be home watching the game or at sports bars. A very peaceful day indeed. I can totally relate to Clay. Even in the summer we dont go to the beach til 3:00 when most people are leaving. Yes its a challenge for us folks in the NE with such highly populated states to find some quiet spaces. Thanks for sharing.. Love to you and your family….
#4 by Julie on February 7, 2011 - 12:42 pm
This post is just so, SO TRUE!!! Things most other folks take for granted are really a bit of a Vegas roll for families living on the spectrum. So happy for Clay and your family that the day ended on a good note. What I have always found difficult is trying to explain if we are going with other people why we have to cut out of things early, or why we have to do things at what might seem to be off hours, and then, of course, dealing with their perverbial Monday Morning Quarterbacking on what we “should have done”….drives me batty! Just have to keep my focus on my own little family unit and what is best for them. Hard to do!!
#5 by Larry Blumenthal on February 7, 2011 - 7:54 pm
Thanks for your thoughts, Julie. Ironically, a week earlier we attempted to have dinner at the same restaurant on a Saturday night. This time with a group of parents who have children on the spectrum. The place was packed and noisy. The reservations were confused, and we had to switch tables. That was it for Clay. My wife took him home, stopping at Wendy’s on the way. (I brought her dinner home an hour or so later.) The wife of another person there came more than an hour late. Babysitter issues. It was a little frustrating, but we just all went about our business, adjusting as we needed to. For obvious reasons, that was a group that understands. Fortunately, our family and friends generally understand as well. Even if they don’t, you do what you have to do.
#6 by autismmommytherapist on February 7, 2011 - 2:12 pm
Loved “but we had a great 15 minutes or so”. Thirty has become our barometer for success. It is amazing how much planning has to go into a simple outing or errand…
#7 by Larry Blumenthal on February 7, 2011 - 7:59 pm
So much of it is about expectations. I guess we’ve learned over the years to set them fairly low and try to appreciate whatever comes along. It is not an attitude that comes easily, though.
#8 by Gpa Tony on February 8, 2011 - 9:38 am
Look at the bright side, Larry. It relieved the cabin fever we all are experiencing this year.
Clay is now a teenager, and I see he is eating that way.
Now you cannot have enough food in the house.
Love to all,
#9 by Larry Blumenthal on February 8, 2011 - 9:47 am
You are right, Grandpa Tony. It was great to get out, even briefly. No question about the way Clay eats. Wow. Not only is he a teenager, but he never stops moving so has to constantly refuel the tank.
#10 by Jenny on May 11, 2011 - 5:34 pm
Now I know who the brainy one is, Ill keep lkioong for your posts.
#11 by dbqptl on May 12, 2011 - 9:47 pm