For the past 3 years, we have gone to Jellystone Park NH for our summer vacation. They’ve got a splash pad for my little one and a pool for my older one. Last year my little guy slipped under the water and refused to take a bath for 6 months. A boy who previously loved baths was now terrified of the water. I dreaded returning to that splash pad this year just in case he remembered. To my surprise, a kid who memorizes complete tv shows didn’t remember the water incident at all! He was very brave this year. He went right in and loved it. He did have to get out every 5 minutes to “dry off” because he doesn’t like the feeling of the water on his clothing, touching his body.
He slept in the bunk beds and had very little problems falling asleep. He ate fast food (which he isn’t allowed, ever) and loved it. He rode in a golf cart for hours with his dad. He played baseball and was pretty good at it! He listened when we said, “don’t get near the fire!” He used his bubble gun to create a bubble party for kids at the neighboring camps. He went off and walked around the trails saying “hello!” to everyone he met. I caught most of those beautiful moments on camera.
I put the camera away for the tough times. We try to move past them quickly but aren’t always very successful.
We often found ourselves saying “Let’s do a stop and sit” – a method of calming himself down and we were met with louder screams and more insistent “NO!”. Many times in the last 4 days, we had to stop what we were doing so that he could calm down, familiarize himself with the situation and move on. This, for an autism parent, is normal but for those who don’t have a child with autism, it looks quite different.
On Monday we went to get popsicles. Easy task, right? Not quite. Three children all with different ice creams means changing his ice cream 3 times. “I want the blue one.” Hand him the blue one. “No, the one with the brown stuff on it.” Hand him the cone with chocolate. “No! The other blue one that looks like a stick!” Hand him the blue one. “Mama, not this one! No! I can’t have this one!” All the while people are waiting to check in behind us. Finally, we got all the ice creams in hopes he’d pick one once we left the store. He didn’t want any and skipped off to play.
On Tuesday we met the nicest ladies working at the food stand. My son was smitten immediately. They gave him fries and ice cream, they were BFF’s. We spent a couple of hours talking with them while he ate his food. He didn’t want to leave them and when it was time to go, he promised he’d come back tomorrow.
Tuesday evening he decided it was time to leave camp so we sat in the car for 2 hours. Every now and again he would say “Ok, time to go. I have a boo boo on my knee so we have to go now.” I would say “Ok son, soon.” He’d go back to his tablet but be sure to remind me to turn the car on so we could get going. Around 11 pm the boo boo no longer hurt and we were able to go back into the RV.
On Wednesday, it was like the previous day’s encounter never happened. He refused to step foot in the food stand, screamed: “we can’t go there!”. I tried coaxing him with memories of yesterday, how much he loved Imani and the other ladies. All he could muster was “no, no, no…we can’t!” So, we didn’t. We waited. To the outsider, it looked like a brat having a fit. To me, it was my son and his uncertainty about the new person standing behind the counter.
Autism is a tricky thing. My son is extra special because he is what you call “Twice Exceptional”. That means he has autism but he’s also got a genius IQ. Tricking him into listening to you isn’t quite so easy when he’s able to understand the trick! On top of those things, we suspect Sensory Processing Disorder. Loud sounds, like a truck or even a fan, are sometimes too much. The water features at the pool could easily become overwhelming. If those things happen we leave. We move past it and go. This can be stressful for the entire family who may not want to leave but it’s life with autism, it never takes a vacation.
Autism Parenting Magazine article on vacations: Vacations
Do you have a child on the spectrum? Are you able to take vacations? If so, what are some of the tricks you use to keep the peace? Where are your favorite places to go?
Leave us a comment and let’s share some ideas.