We Survived Autism and a Parade...

4 years ago

First, I thought you might like a mental image of my surroundings when I sit down to blog. I make a pot of freshly-ground coffee, light a warm, spring-scented candle from Yankee Candle, lock the bedroom door, play some Enya, do some deep breathing exercises, and let my thoughts and feelings just flow through my fingers to the keyboard.

HA!

If it wasn't completely embarrassing, I'd take an actual picture of my surroundings as I type this, but you'd be tempted to call CPS. I'm at the kitchen table, which is covered with the following random items:  the kids' backpacks, a Trader Joe's bag of costumes for my school's version of the Harlem Shake (yep!), a bowl of leftover Valentine's candy, some tools from Anderson's little toy Home Depot tool kit, two dirty breakfast plates, a pink watch, some flushable wipes (not used--we aren't that dirty!), a plastic bowl that Anderson has been carrying around lately, calling it a camera, and a Tap Light. And my coffee. That one is a non-negotiable.  Oh, and no Enya here--in fact, Thrift Shop is playing on iTunes. Somehow seems fitting, given the scroungy table.

Yesterday, we decided to go to the local St. Patrick's Day parade.  We didn't take the decision lightly--it was in the middle of nap time, which is automatically a frightening thought. It was also sure to have a big crowd, and as I mentioned before, Anderson is showing some signs of being nervous around strangers.  But, the weather was gorgeous, both kids love being outside, and we were all a little restless--so we went.

Throughout the entire car ride, Anderson kept saying that he wanted to go to the parade and play with toys--um, sorry buddy. Parades don't usually have toys! We did tell him that there would be music--he absolutely loves music (gets it from me!), so he was still sold on the idea.

However, we pulled into the parking garage and the anxiety kicked up a notch.
"Mom, we aren't going to ride the elevators...we aren't riding an elevator, Mom. No elevators, Dad..." and on, and on... Didn't matter that we kept telling him there would be no elevator riding--he was sure we were going to put him on the elevator. Even as we were walking down the steps--in the actual act--he was still clinging to Marty and talking about not riding an elevator. Thankfully, once we got to ground-level, he relaxed a little bit.

We chose a spot that wasn't too crowded, right in front of the old courthouse...one that has a huge set of steps.  Anderson LOVES him some steps, so he immediately wanted to go walk the steps. It was all good--we had about 20 minutes until parade time, so he and Marty did some cardio, walking the steps. Amelia hung with me and played in the dirt. Sister loves the dirt.

Marty convinced Anderson to come down and get ready to watch the parade. He did alright with this, although he kept talking about wanting to go up the steps.  There were a few hairy minutes in there, where he was antsy and jumping around and getting a bit too close to our neighbor's green beer (mmm...green beer), and he got upset when we said his name a little too loudly. He used some echolalia then, to talk about him being sad, but fortunately the parade started and we could hear the bagpipes in the distance, which redirected him. Crisis averted.

Initially, he didn't want to get too close to the road, so he hung back and watched with Marty.  I held Amelia near the road and we took in the sights and sounds of the parade.  Amelia, being the Daddy's girl that she is, decided she wanted to have daddy hold her, so I was alone near the road--and then I felt some little hands on my legs. Anderson joined me up by the street--I was proud of him.  It was a pretty big commotion, and I was happy to see him wanting to get closer.

You can tell he's a little nervous--clasping his hands.    

 

There were several dog rescue organizations with dogs in the parade. I don't know what the heck happened to him, but suddenly he's terrified of dogs. Our dog was put to sleep in October...I'd think he'd still be used to them, but whatever. Every time the dogs would go by, he'd practically climb me like a spider monkey and say things like, "The dogs are not going to hurt you.."  As soon as they'd pass, he'd immediately want down, though, which I thought was good.

Post-parade, we wanted to check out the tents and see what activities they had to offer. Anderson initially perseverated about wanting to go back to the steps, but we didn't give in. He then reverted to whining about wanting to play with toys. We ignored and stayed the course--it was at this point that I was tempted to scrap the whole thing and head to the car, but that would've been too easy, and not fair to Amelia.  It's a hard balancing act, when you have one typical kid and one not-so-typical kid.  We struggle with balancing his needs with hers at times like this.  We try to push him to get through these kinds of anxiety-provoking experiences because we want him to be able to get out and learn to enjoy them, and we also want Amelia to be able to have some of the common childhood experiences.  Obviously, if things had gone too far south, we would've ditched, but he was tolerating it, albeit with some serious whining going on.

We found a tent that had some little booths, things for sale, and face-painting. Amelia had had her face painted before and was pumped; Anderson was definitely not interested.  People had dogs everywhere, he was nervous, so Marty took him to walk along the edge of the fence (he loves fences--very soothing for him to walk along them and look at the passing posts) while Amelia had her face painted. Anderson wanted to go back to the steps, so Marty took him...and of course THEN he decided he wanted his face painted as well. This is huge for him, though--HUGE--so back to the face-painting tent we went.

 

I have to tell you, I was so proud of him. He did AMAZING.  Even smiled a few times.  In general, he doesn't enjoy having his face touched--he doesn't like to wipe it and often fights us on this. What a big step for the little guy.

Afterward, we went back to the steps for a little bit. There were tons of kids playing on the steps--why do kids love them so much? Being the lazy person that I am, I sent Marty up to supervise the kids and I sat on a little island below.  They went up and down, up and down...over and over. Good exercise, right?  Really we were thinking that they would sleep well later.

Taking big steps. See Marty texting in the background? He's texting me, telling me he's ready to go.

 

When Marty mentioned that it was getting close to time to leave, Anderson got upset. However, Marty just set a timer on his phone and told him we'd leave when it went off. That's Anderson's new thing--he likes to have a timer set when he's finishing an activity. It's like he knows he needs that definite ending, something that indicates it's time to do something new. We set a timer before bed every night, at his request, so that he knows when he has to get in bed.  Hey, whatever works.  So, Marty set a timer, and we left when it sounded.

This morning, when we woke up, I asked Anderson if he liked the parade. He enthusiastically said yes.  It's funny...he was so incredibly anxious for most of the time, but he looks back on it as a happy experience. So we will continue to participate in these little life experiences, even when it's hard for us, because even though it's scary for him, he really does derive pleasure from them.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, though--it's so hard for us to see him so anxious. I can't speak for Marty, but I don't think I will ever get used to that.

He's marching around right now, pretending to play the bagpipes.  My little leprechaun.

 

~Wendy

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