Bathrooms and Autism

The bathroom is such a controversial thing these days. 

So many people are worried about who gets to go where. Honestly, I don’t care. This isn’t about that issue. Well, not directly. This is about fear. A mother’s fear. Or could be a father’s fear.

There are so many challenges that come with having an autistic child. Meltdowns, communication, potty training, the list goes on forever.  Working through them is just part of normal life when you have a special needs child. I’ve learned to take most of them in stride, but there is one that still terrifies me.

Public bathrooms.

My son is 11 now. If he was a normal kid he would be going to the bathroom by himself in the men’s room. However, he is not normal. I don’t mean that in a bad way; it’s just a fact. He still has communication problems and often motor skill difficulties. He gets distracted easily and forgets what he is doing. I often have to remind him that he is in the bathroom to go pee not to play.

When we are out an about we have to use public toilets. If we are in a really busy place with lots of people, I often don’t feel safe letting him go into the men’s room alone. I will often take him into the ladies room because I can keep an eye on him and know he is safe. Believe me, I get lots of dirty looks from the women in the bathroom. I really don’t care. Safety first. My child is billions of times more important than your opinion of me.  There is no telling who is in the bathroom or what they would do to him and it’s not like he could tell me if something does happen. And I know it isn’t just me. I know that dad’s with their daughters who have special needs suffer the same anxieties about the women’s room.

Another reason I keep him with me is the fact that he wanders. If it is just him and me and we both have to go, I can’t be sure he won’t be out before me and just wander off. Who knows what would happen to him?

Now comes the real problem. He is getting more independent. He knows he is a boy and he wants to go to the men’s bathroom. We stopped at a truck stop the other day because we really needed the bathroom. He wanted to go into the men’s room. My heart was racing and I ran into the women’s and peed as fast as I could so I would be done before him and be waiting for him when he was through. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be fast enough or that there would be someone in the bathroom that could hurt him.

It’s terrifying! Like we, as parents, need more to be afraid of or worried about. Going out an about in public is hard enough with meltdowns and over-stimulation issues. Now this. How old can he be before it gets too controversial and we end up in some kind of confrontation with an offended self-righteous bathroom guardian?

This is another one of those moment when life just seems too complicated and unfair. I guess the best I can do is try to pick and choose where we go because some bathrooms are better situated  for things like this. It’s just a single bathroom or it’s a family bathroom, but it’s not always that easy. One more struggle that must be dealt with and overcome, somehow.

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What Happens When Mom Gets Sick?

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What happens when Mom gets sick? Same thing as everyday. She gets up and takes care of the same things she always does. There are no sick days or breaks. There is only the normal routine but doing it feeling terrible.

But what happens when it’s more than just sick? What happens when you really need to be out for the count?

I recently broke a tooth. It had a crack and I knew that it was going to go someday, but I chose to ignore it. Not just because I am Mom, but because I am terrified of Dentists. I don’t just mean kind of nervous. I mean full blown shaking and hyperventilating, with crying and throwing up kind of terrified. I don’t know why exactly. Something in my childhood probably. I have blanked out every visit to the dentist I’ve ever had. I used to be able to handle going. I was scared but not too bad. Then as the years progressed it’s gotten worse. Last time I went, I had to take a Valium before going and one again while I was there. But this time, it was the worst.

I went in to have them see what was going on with my tooth. I almost ran out of the waiting room. When I did get back to the actual room, I started to shake. I made it almost through the X-ray before starting to cry and hyperventilate. I never made it to the actual examination. I freaked out completely and they told me they would have to sedate me to do anything. That involved a “trial run” of the sedation because I react strangely to drugs.

For most people this wouldn’t be a big thing. They just get a family member to help and all is good. I, however, have a complicated life. First of all the only family that is around here is my kids. Granted my daughter is 17 and she could help me but I didn’t want to put the whole thing on her shoulders. Not only watching me but having to take care of her autistic brother at the same time.  My husband would be the logical choice. I would have to make the appointment for when he was going to be home,  but he works away from home for 6 weeks at a time. That kind of made it hard to schedule.

Eventually, I got the appointment and we went in for the work. I was praying for them to do the work if the sedation worked so I didn’t have to wait another six weeks for the next appointment. Thank God they did. My face is sore but the work is done. I’m not really sure what they did. I guess I have a crown, whatever that means. (Like I said I blank out any dentist appointments. )

Good thing my husband was there. I was at the dentist from 7 am until 2:30 pm then went home and slept until 5:30 pm. How could I have done it without him? By the evening, everyone’s tempers were getting short because my son was being difficult. He didn’t understand why mom wasn’t there. Mom is the one constant in his life. Mom is never gone or sick. He wasn’t completely awful, but he didn’t handle it well either.

No one really realized how important Mom is until Mom goes down. I’m not saying that Dad isn’t important because he is. I’m just saying that families rely heavily on Mom always being there and always being functional. It is hard on everyone when Mom goes down. SO go and hug your mom and tell her you appreciate her then give her a day off. You will all be better for it. Kind of like an emergency preparedness drill.

Being a Callous Autism Parent

My son is Autistic. That means a lot of things. It means he has trouble processing his environment. It means that he has trouble speaking and using words. It means that he can become easily fixated on particular thoughts or actions. It means that he is often unable to make the right choices. It means that he feels his emotions so intensely that they often overwhelm him. It means that he often has out bursts that are dangerous to himself and others.

I don’t mean to say that he is dangerous, just that he is sometimes not in control. Sometimes it’s because of processing problem like over stimulation, but sometimes it’s because he isn’t getting his way. I know this. That doesn’t make him a bad kid, just a normal kid in High Definition.  Most kids get upset about not getting their way and they may throw a tantrum or ten but they eventually can be reasoned with and they learn.

That isn’t always the case with my son. Often he can become fixated on what he wants and there is no reasoning with him. You can’t use logic. His eyes glaze over and there is nobody home in there. Just the driving thought that he wants something. If you can nip it in the bud before he reaches that stage, you’re good. If not, well then, best just to stay out of range and try to mitigate the damage.

There are many times when my son will hit, bite, scratch, kick, spit, choke, throw things, and bang his head.  He isn’t mean. He just has trouble dealing with his emotions. After the meltdown is over he is very apologetic almost to the same obsessed level as the outburst was.

Recently I got a call from the school. My son was having a rough day. He didn’t want to come in from recess. Well what child does? Unfortunately my son took then ending of recess rather badly and he had a meltdown. His disappointment was so intense that he couldn’t deal with it. He started banging his head. He managed to bash his nose on the window frame of the low stimulus room where he goes to calm down.

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His nose swelled and he ended up with a large welt on the bridge of his nose. The school was concerned and rightly so. They called me to see if I wanted to come look at his nose. After learning the details and talking with his teacher I decided to wait and see.

Does that make me a callous parent? No just practical.

I’ve been living the autistic life for eleven years now and I’ve learned a thing or two. I know that at any moment of any day a meltdown might happen. I’ve been kicked in the face, head-butted, pinched, scratched, punched in the ribs, bit, and choked. My neck used to have permanent gouges down each side that made me look like a tiger had attacked me. Does that make me scared of my child? No. Does that make me jumpy or reactionary? No. I’ve seen a lot of bruises, cuts and blood. Does that make me complacent? No.

It means that I’ve been there and done that. I know when it’s time to act and time to wait.  I know that above all structure and carefully planned reactions are the best.

I know that if I go running to the school after a meltdown, it’s only going to make things worse. It won’t change his behavior and it will very likely undermine the authority of the teachers. It will only justify what he’s done in his mind. He has to learn that that kind of behavior will not get him what he wants.

Do I think this was a tantrum? Partially. He didn’t get his way and he reacted. However, the difference is that he feels the emotions differently and he has no way to control them once they hit a certain point. Hence the headbanging. Studies have learned that there is a reason for headbanging.  In really weird way, it is how the child can get control back. It has to do with stimulation and chemicals. You can learn about it here.

I know this makes me sound callous, but I’m really not. I just know that this is my normal life. I don’t want it to be this way, but it is. I love my son dearly and it breaks my heart every time he hurts himself or anyone else. I feel terrible that others have to bear the brunt of his meltdowns. I’d rather it was me and not his teachers that had to deal with the pain. I wish that he would never have to be hurt, but that just isn’t in the cards for us.

The autistic life is hard. It takes its toll on everyone, but it hasn’t made me a callous parent. It just means that I’ve built up callouses on my hide. It’s given me a tougher and stronger skin to protect my heart. A heart that will always love my son no matter what may come our way.

 

 



Halloween done quietly

This year seemed to be a quiet one for Halloween. Probably because it was on a Monday. Normally we get a lot of trick-or-treaters on our street. We usually go through at least three big bowls of treats and got out trick-or-treating ourselves, but this year we barely got through a single bowl. img_8622

I bought a lot of little goofy toys to give out because not everyone is great with candy and kids love it when there is something left after they’ve eaten their sugary haul. img_8624

It worked out well because I let them choose what they want and there was mostly candy left. The kids loved the toys!

We didn’t do much for costumes either.

img_8542Autism makes costuming hard sometimes.img_8610

You can never go really scary, and he gets scared of other kids too.

Originally my son wanted to be a super hero, so he got a Batman costume but then became scared of it. (I don’t know why, it’s just how he is.)

 

 

 

img_8541My daughter did the img_8606same thing, she wanted to dress up like a nun, but changed her mind and ended up a cat. She also didn’t want to deal with her costume at school so she dressed as a Nudist on Strike.

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Eventually we ended up a kitty, puppy and a veterinarian, haha.
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We also made some blood splatter Halloween cupcakes.  My daughter took great pains in decorating just the perfect way.

All in all it was a good Halloween. Quiet, but good. 

I Am Woman, See Me Fix Toilet

Toilets have never been my favorite thing. If you look through my posts you will find quite a few that visit the toilet subject and I don’t mean they are crappy. I remember rather fondly the post How to dispose of a stiff with your teenage daughter.

Here is my latest adventure in the House of the Porcelain God.

Our toilet tank had a crack. I can’t say if it was because of manufacturer flaws or if it was because my son leans back against the tank too hard putting stress on the bolts that hold the tank.  Either way, it had a crack. We looked into getting a new tank but surprise, surprise, you have to buy the whole toilet. So like any good homeowner, I procrastinated and himmed and hawed.

Until it was too late.

My son was upset about Halloween. He wanted it to be right now and didn’t want to wait.He had gone to the bathroom and as he sat there trying to make an offering to the Porcelain God he became more and more upset about Halloween.  He began to cry and then to scream and then to sob all the while sitting on the toilet. Now remember he is autistic and this means sometimes he gets into a meltdown cycle and there isn’t a lot to be done.  Often at that point, I try to avoid giving him attention because it only increases the problem. Sometimes he will become calm on his own. But not this time.

Miscalculation on my part. Never let a child in meltdown stay on the toilet.

img_8523 img_8530He did not calm down. Then next thing I heard was gushing water. I thought he’d turned on the faucet or something. I rushed into the bathroom to find him sitting not on the toilet but on the side of the tub staring at the fountain of water bursting from the bottom of the tank.

Bath toys were pairing up and looking for Noah. The rugs were soak and there was a mini waterfall going down the heater vent. I splashed through the flood that was racing across the floor and turned off the water to the tank.

For the next couple of hours it was mops and towels and buckets in full force. Water had not only covered the bathroom floor, but it had also dripped through the floor and into the bathroom downstairs which is right below the upstairs bathroom. So, I had to clean up two bathrooms. The water in the vent headed south down the ducts to drip out at a junction in my basement right next to the furnace. Had to leave a bucket there to collect the drips all night.

Needless to say Momma was not happy.

Once it was all cleaned up and as dry as it could get, we moved on with bedtime. The next morning we headed off to Great Falls to find a toilet. Nothing like looking for a new toilet on a Sunday morning. Bought a whole new toilet and drafted my poor daughter to once again help. This time was more like Frankenstein bringing home body parts to fix the dead Porcelain God. Maybe I should have called this post “How to teach your daughter to resurrect the dead.”

img_8525Any way the box made it home and I img_8527took out the new tank, read the instructions about fifty times and then installed the new tank. I did a total redneck number behind the tank though. Got a Styrofoam chunk and wedged it between the wall and the tank then duct taped it in. Hopefully that will keep my son from banging into it and cracking this new one.

So far so good it hasn’t leaked…yet. I’m trying to be optimistic and believe that this will be the last time I have to mess with the toilet but then again I’m delusional sometimes.

The Lies that are the Truth

I always tell my children not to lie. It is a good thing for them to know and live by. I try my hardest not to lie. It’s not easy. Sometimes it is the hardest thing in the world, but I believe in telling the truth.

But this morning as I was walking my 11 year old autistic son to school, I realized that I was lying to him.

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I said to him, “Say in between the lines of the crosswalk. That’s where it is safe to cross.”

This is true according to traffic laws. That is why the crosswalk is there, to give a safe place to cross the street.

Then I continued, “It’s like a bridge, you wouldn’t cross a river without a bridge, so don’t cross the street without a crosswalk.”

At that moment, I realized the lie.

The road is no different inside the lines of the crosswalk than outside of it. It is merely lines painted on the pavement. It’s not safe. There is no magic barrier there that will keep him from getting run over. (That thought alone scared the Hell out of me.) It’s just lines.

The only reason that it is safer to cross at the crosswalk is the teaching we get in driver’s ed. The traffic rules that tell us to look for pedestrians in the crosswalks. That doesn’t mean that drivers will, just that they are supposed to.

So in lying to my son I gave him a false impression of the world, but it is a lie that has to be told. The belief that a crosswalk is safe is the only thing standing between me and a child in a coffin. If, in his mind, he believes that the crosswalk is safe then he will be forced to live within that stricture. He will cross at the crosswalk making his life safer than it was before.  It won’t keep him from getting hit, but it will up his chances of staying safe.

It is a lie that has to be told. Ignorance often keeps us safe. If you don’t know you can be killed then you don’t panic about it.

When it comes to Autism, one must be very careful with the ideas that one presents. It comes down to control. Often my son just does what he wants because he has no idea what will happen to him. So I must tell him a truth that is a lie to keep him safe.

I tell him all the time, Big House is safe. (Big House is what he calls our home. I don’t know why, he just does.) Big House is safe from thunderstorms, wind, rain, loud trucks, trains and all manner of other things that he is scared of.

I know for a fact that wind can destroy houses. (I lived in tornado land for a long time.) I know that fire from lightening could burn down our house, we could be flooded, or even have a truck drive through our front door. But when it comes down to it, Big House is safe because it has to be.

It’s another lie that is the truth. If I didn’t tell him this lie then he would never sleep at night and he would be in a perpetual state of panic. How can anyone live like that? We tell ourselves these lies so that we can face living. Not just the parents of Autistic children but everyone.

To Quote Men in Black: There’s always an alien battle cruiser, or a Corellian death ray, or an intergalactic plague intended to wipe out life on this miserable little planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!

So in the end the question comes up: Do I lie? The answer is: Only when it is the truth.

Transitions into a Quieter Life.

As the leaves start to show more yellow than green and the weather turns mild, people start to say, “It is time to get back to the old grind.”img_8433 They are talking about school. I understand the statement, but I never felt that getting back into the routines of school were a grind.  For us it is the opposite. I look forward to the autumn like a cold glass of water after being lost in the desert for three months.

Autism can make summer the hardest time of the year.

Most kids with Autism thrive on routine. They feel safe in a predictable world. Summer strips away the predictability and leaves chaos in its wake.

Summer is just a season, but people treat it like its some sort of free pass from prison. Perhaps that is true for some. Kids are out of school and people take vacations, go camping, and “really live”.  I sometimes wish that we could have the freedom to go on vacations, or go to the swimming pool, or let my kiddo ride his bike around the neighborhood just like all the other kids, but Autism is in our lives to stay. Structure, supervision and routine are the foundations of our existence.

We try every year to keep to some kind of schedule during the summer months. Getting up at the same time, eating at the same time, doing some educational stuff like worksheets and having recess all on a schedule, but it is so easy to fall off the routine. We have no bells or classrooms, we have no teachers or other kids. We only have mom. Anything can throw off the routine, an unplanned trip, a doctor’s appointment, or even the weather. Even the long hours of summer work against us making bedtimes a fight because it is still light until almost 11 pm.

I struggle every year to keep us on track. I start out so optimistic but day in and day out being the only one here makes it hard to keep up the pace. It’s 24 hour a day vigilance. It’s exhausting and I lose my way.

img_8432So as the leaves change, I feel like my path is clear again. School has started. That means schedules and schedules mean calm. Everything settles into its proper place. I find myself relaxing and not just because of school.

I feel like summer is noisy and crazy. When fall comes, the world quiets. The busy buzzing in the air that come with summer falls away. The sounds of lawn mowers fade. Even the wind isn’t as loud. And I find myself slowing down.

I found myself sitting on a stool just inside my door for about 15 minutes just watching this bird sitting on my front railing. That is not something that happens in summer. The bird would have flown away as soon as it saw me.

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I feel like I begin to notice my surroundings again. We went to the football game  Friday night and between plays I looked up and was awed  at the beautiful color of the sky.img_8437

How often during summer do we notice things like the sky? Oh, people notice it is clear or cloudy, but do we really see it? Maybe some people do but I feel like I never have the time. I’m so busy trying to deal with the chaos of summer that I miss the beauty of it.

I’m so relieved that summer is ending and autumn is here. I feel like I can breath again. My head is clearing and I feel like I can handle my life again. I feel like I have transitioned into a quieter life.

Keys to a Happy Life

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Many blogs refer to this subject: keys to a happy life. Most of them advise things like – taking time for yourself, taking up a hobby, spending time with family and friends, de-cluttering your life, or making life changes that allow you more freedom like starting a .com business or blogging for a living, or travel.

Well that’s all fine and dandy-for most people. But what about those of us who are really in the grinder? Single moms or dads, families with special needs children, families that are either out of work or have so many jobs to make it by they only have time to fall asleep on their feet, soldiers in combat, elderly men and women that have no one?

What about us?

Let’s take it from the top.

  1. Taking time for yourself.

This is the one that is thrown at me a lot. I am the mom of a special needs child and a teenage daughter that has so much going on that her head is going to explode soon. My husband is gone for six weeks at a time and I live fifteen hours away from my closest family. I am on 24 hrs a day alert. I am the sole caregiver and ring master of my circus. My stress is off the charts and everyone pesters me to take time for myself. I try, but mostly I fail. When you have no one to step into your shoes, it’s hard to take that time. I can’t just go out for the night with the girls. I don’t really have “girls” and the ones that I do have are the ones that I would normally trust to watch my son so I could go out. See the problem?

What about time alone for a bath and some candlelight relaxing? Can’t do it while my son’s awake because he barges into the bathroom constantly. He doesn’t get the “door is closed so you have to wait” concept. After he’s asleep is just as bad because he wakes up a lot and once again will barge into the bathroom.

So. time for myself…yeah right.

Time for myself comes in tiny little bursts. If he’s occupied watching a cartoon, I get until the commercials come on again. Sometimes I can get by with sitting on the couch with him and reading while he is chattering on beside me. I’ve come to understand that it’s not the amount of time you get it’s what you do with the time you have. It’s like a power nap. Two minutes of complete abandon while staring out the window as dinner cooks is just as good as an hour of spa time. Well, maybe not just as good but it’s as good as it gets and that has to be good enough.

2. Take up a hobby

Hobbies are great! But if you have the problems I’ve mentioned above or if you are struggling to make ends meet then you start to think that hobbies are for the elitists of the world. Let’s face it hobbies take money. Whether it is learning to paint or knit or learning to play a guitar, it’s going to cost you money. Then you get into the Etsy and Pintrest trap- “if I make this I could sell it, then I wouldn’t be poor anymore!”

Well, if you have the time to dedicate to the craft you have chosen then, yeah, you could probably make a living, but face it, if you can’t get a bath in you probably can’t become a mogul in the hobby area. Plus if you are trying to sell stuff then it’s not really a hobby anymore is it?

The other downside to hobbies is the time it takes. You have to dedicate a lot of time, preferably uninterrupted time, to pursuing a hobby. That is not always possible with a full life of children, jobs, and stress. But I’ve come to understand that a hobby is not an activity to keep you busy, it is merely practicing the art of self distraction. It is the art of finding something to get your mind off your daily grind. It can be something complicated like learning to knit or it could be just starting out the window and daydreaming about the proper way to scale an ice cream mountain. The point isn’t activity, the point is brain escape.

3. Spending time with family and friends.

This one is hard. For the really lucky ones family and friends are all around almost to the point of distraction, but to the unlucky ones they don’t exist. In this day and age people are scattered to the winds and getting together is something that happens rarely if at all. When I was a kid we always had family dinners on holidays. There were about nine of us and it was a big day. However, due to jobs that have taken us to the far ends of the Earth and deaths there aren’t anymore holiday dinners. We can’t seem to make it happen anymore. It is a sad loss.

Plus everyone is so busy with jobs and kids that there aren’t really a lot of times that line us when we can get together. Sometimes I don’t get to see my friends for months. Our lives are just too complicated. So I’ve learned that it isn’t about the quantity of time that you spend with your family and friends it’s the quality. I may not get to see my mom more that once every couple of years but when I do see her I make it count. I may not see my friends for weeks on end but email and text are precious connections that I don’t give up.

4. De-cluttering your life.

This one is kind of self-explanatory unless you don’t have anything to get rid of. This is a country of consumerism. It’s all about buying the next best thing. However, there are many that can’t afford to buy all these material goods, so they really can’t get rid of anything to de-clutter. I’ve learned that it’s not about getting rid of stuff, it’s about uncomplicating our lives. It’s about removing the static that invades our lives and becomes like a fog. It’s about not bothering to keep up with everything.

If it’s causing strife to try and keep up with the news-stop trying. If you are going nuts trying to keep up with all the crazy drama going on in your circle of friends, don’t try so hard. Let it go. You don’t need it. Mental clutter is much more damaging than material goods. That’s why live and let live are such good words to live by. Another good mantra is “not my circus- not my monkeys.”

5. Financial freedom – start a .com or blog for a living

This one gets me every time. They say the key to happiness if financial freedom. Yes, it is, not having to worry about where your next meal is coming from or if you can pay for your son’s prescription is happiness. Sometimes it’s down right ecstasy. But…

Starting a .com or blogging for a living is a big hoopla. First you have to have some kind of contribution to the world, you have to have something that people want or need. Not all of us have that. Second you need the technological know how to execute the plan. Let’s face it, we’re not all computer gods. I know I’m not. Third you have to have the time to posts a million times a day.

For example – there are blogs out there that have thousands of followers after only a few months whereas I have been blogging for a couple of years with only a couple hundred followers. Is it because I don’t have great content? Yeah maybe, but it is really because I don’t have a specific driving force that people need to know about and I don’t have the time to dedicate to my site. It’s taken me nearly three hours to write this post, not because I’m a slow writer but because I keep stopping to play with my son, get snacks or lunch, get him to the bathroom, break up fights between him and the cat, deal with the “I’m sad” phase he’s in, etc. I can’t imaging trying to dedicate enough time to really get this blog going.

I’m also among the population of non-tech savy humans that struggle with the idea of SEO and marketing. I suck at it. I’m trying to learn. I’ve got lots of books that I’m trying to digest that will help me but really I’m getting nowhere fast.

There are a lot of people out there that are poor enough that owning a computer would be the height of riches. The library is where they go if they want to use the internet. I really can’t see those people dropping everything to become the next .com superstar. Not saying they couldn’t if they wanted to, just that it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

So the idea of financial freedom by way of alternative lifestyles…Not seeing it. Sorry. Financial freedom is all about perspective. When you’re poor or just scraping by and you have budgeted the Hell out what little income you have and you get to splurge on your birthday. That’s financial freedom. If you’ve been careful and you can buy someone a coffee, that’s financial freedom. It’s all relativity.

6. Travel

This is one of my favorites. If you want to be happy get out and see the world, travel to exotic places and really live. I always see these pictures of people who threw off the mantle of normalcy in favor or biking or hiking around the world. They’re living the dream, but they always have one thing in common. They’re young and single.

Dude, I have kids!

Do you have any idea how expensive it is to travel with kids? And I have an Autistic son- See my post about traveling with a special needs kid.  Even going shopping takes war strategy! Don’t get me wrong I would love to travel. I would love to go to India, Norway, Peru, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, Russia…not to mention a thousand places in the United States, the list goes on and on. Will it ever happen? Doubt it. Money and family responsibilities are kinda working against me here.

So I’ve learned that travel isn’t about leaving home and traipsing around the planet. It’s about broadening your mind to the world around you. You may not be able to go to exotic places but you can see what’s on your doorstep. Drive a different route to work. See something different everyday. Shop in a new store. Read travel books or watch the hundreds of shows on TV about other places and people. Anything to get a perspective on how the rest of the world lives.

Get your head out of your trench and look around. There may not be roses to smell but there will be other aromatic experiences that will blow your mind. Not all travel experiences are good. Some are down right scary. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all travel adventures are romantic, but what they will be is experiences.  And experiences are the spice that makes life worth living. Some of the best stories are about overcoming the disasters you’ve lived through. Sometimes you just need to see what’s really there to know that you traveled. Just think about it- you live where some tourist wants to visit.

So let’s recap.

Keys to a Happy Life

  1. Take time for yourself. It’s not the amount of time you get it’s what you do with the time you have. 
  2. Take up a hobby. A hobby is not an activity to keep you busy, it is merely practicing the art of self distraction.
  3. Spending time with family and friends. It isn’t about the quantity of time that you spend with your family and friends it’s the quality.
  4. De-cluttering your life. It’s not about getting rid of stuff, it’s about uncomplicating our lives.
  5. Financial freedom. Financial freedom is all about perspective.
  6. Travel. It’s about broadening your mind to the world around you. 

Keys to happiness are like your car keys. You have them but sometimes you lose them under the stacks of paper on you desk or in the cushions of your couch. You just have to take a moment and find them again and wallah! you’ve got the keys to happiness in your hand. Have you lost your keys?

If you are bored…

Said every mom at some point in the summer months. Kids on vacation from school means kids that get bored. Often more chores are heaped on or they are sent out to play so they don’t make their parents psychotic. But sometimes we turn to crafts…

A long time ago we found these at the dollar store. Discovery Digging In. A small block of supposed sandstone hiding a treasure for your intrepid young archaeologist to discover!

I thought this would be great for my autistic son, because he loves digging for treasure.

Ummm, yeah, right.
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After working away for a while and asking for help repeatedly because motor skills and strength were not cooperating, we got a bit of the treasure uncovered.

We were both covered in the most powdery nasty substance known to man and that I’m sure was designed to suck all the moisture out of any bit of skin it touches. He got bored and started playing with other toys.

After 20 minutes of, “Are you going to finish digging for treasure?”

“Yeah, mom, help!” Over and over again. I finally gave in and finished breaking the little toy loose.

All that hoopla for this tiny little warrior.

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So basically, the lesson learned is…if they are bored don’t give them something that will make more work for you because they’ll still get bored and you and up with a mess on  your hands.

Ah well, I tried.

Traveling with an Autistic Child

People are always saying to me that I should take my son places and get out and see some of the fun stuff around us. Well, that requires travel.

Traveling with children is hard. Traveling with an autistic child is really, really hard.

First you have the packing.

IMG_8194Whatever you try to pack or organize it gets a little askew as they try to help. Sometime you even end up missing things because you thought you packed them and he moved them when he was trying to be helpful. Then there is all the extra stuff you have to take along because he can’t sleep at night without it. Like his pillow, his stuffed animals and the little plastic Smee characters (from Peter Pan) that he has to hold while falling asleep, there is also the music he has to listen to all night and the book you read to him until he sleeps. Thinking about it now I should have added his night light but, ah well.   That’s just the list for bedtime.

There’s also his tablet, the ear protection in case it thunders (he’s terrified of storms), the extra pairs of clothes in case of accidents and snack in case of anger episodes to get him back on track.  Hats, sunscreen, toys, and all the regular stuff you pack for a trip like clothes and toiletries.

And that’s just his stuff.

By the time you are ready to leave half the house is packed and I packed sparingly.

But it isn’t just the bring of extra stuff that makes travel with an autistic child hard. It’s the upset to the routine. Most kids that I know that are on the spectrum need routine. Mine certainly does.

For example if you are driving then you need to stop for food at the right times. If you go to long or eat too soon after the last time they get grumpy. Sitting in the care too long makes them grumpy, they need to move around a lot more than the seat belt will allow. If they get grumpy there is the possibility of a meltdown and that is not easy to handle when you are driving down the interstate. Mine will kick the windows or grab my shirt and try to yank me into the back seat. There has also been instances of kicking and pinching. I even got hit in the head with a half-full water bottle once while I was driving. Not the best thing at high speeds.

Another issue is the strangeness of where you stop. I have taken to driving straight through to my mom’s house from Montana. It’s about a 15 hour trip. It’s exhausting and it makes him grumpy but stopping overnight in a hotel is even worse. The last time we were in a hotel he freaked out completely. He was scared of the lights outside the window and spent the whole night trying to get out the door. Well obviously I couldn’t just let him leave. Where could he go? So we fought all night. He screamed and cried. By morning my arms and neck were scratched and bloody and covered in bruises. I took to sitting in front of the door so he couldn’t open it. When he finally did sleep it was about two hours before we had to leave again. So now we drive straight through.

Then once you get where you are going you have to get him settled and that often takes a long time. Luckily we only go to Grandma’s so he’s familiar with it. After trying to keep the routine while you are there, which can get really difficult, you must then make the trek back home again which involves going through all that craziness again. By the time you get home you want to hide and cry but you have to keep going and get unpacked and settled and try to force your reality into some sort of normality.

I know that he needs to be out and see the world but sometimes it is way to hard when you are alone. There have been times when we have gone as a family. My daughter and sometimes my husband are along and that makes it a little easier. Ish. When my daughter is in the back and he is having a meltdown it becomes dangerous for her because he will attack whomever he can reach. So I usually take the seat beside him so he can take it out on me and not my daughter. It is not an easy thing to have to protect one child from the other like that but there isn’t much choice when his is in an angry trance. When he calms down he snaps out of it and he is very apologetic but the damage is done. Better me than my daughter.

So if you see me and ask why I don’t take him places in the summer…it’s just better that way.