Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Our older son is a man on the go.

He was the infant who wanted to sit. He was the young baby who wanted to stand. By the time he was ten months old, he managed to walk and has never looked back. Relaxation is simply not in his vocabulary.

We didn't understand at the time that he was in flight mode, running from gastric pain and from everything in this world that offended his sensory system. His body has always been in overdrive, bolting from anything that tried to hold him down. His mind did all it could to zero in on some activity in order to drown out everything else. He was in his own world.

Tired new parents as we were, we drove ourselves nuts trying to pull him out of seemingly everything in our house. He'd take cabinet doors off of the hinges, fight to get to the insides of our toilets and all of his toys eventually turn to a pile of disassembled pieces. We couldn't take a finger off of him in public, and at home, he would crack any lock to any door. He'd even play in the windows.

We had only one solution for this: get this child out of the house and feed his brain!

From an early age, he was taken to our local children's museum, science center, planetarium, amusement park, malls and airport in an effort to keep him busy and to keep us sane. We were never, ever sedentary. Ever.

Now ten years old, our son finds comfort in car trips. He stares out the window at the scenery and is calmed. All of his worries become lost in the humming of the car engine as it makes its way to his desired destination.

When he was younger, we were just thrilled to find something--anything--that calmed him. How hard is it, we would think, to take a trip to Home Depot, or the mall or a casual trip ANYWHERE in order to find some peace for us all?

The day would start with 6am trips to no specific place. An afternoon trip then followed. Then an evening trip. On weekends, one trip would bleed into another until, soon, most of the day was spent out in the community. And, at nights, when he would wake for any myriad of reasons, it was a natural progression for him to request a ride in the car. Try as we did to discourage it, we gave in. A car trip became the quickest and best way to settle him.

Hey, a family has to do what a family has to do.

Trips at 3am became the norm, and it became painfully obvious that this child could not find rest in his own home. He had no play skills. He couldn't attend to television--his home was not his comfort zone. Spending the day out and about became the norm. Soon, even when he wasn't in distress, he wanted to "go." It was relentless.

In times of crisis, community outings fell victim to his obsessive compulsive disorder. He becomes manic, pulling at the locked door in an effort to persuade us to leave the house. He has hit, pinched, kicked and pushed us in order to get that door open. His coping skills do not even cover a wait of five minutes.

Years ago, my husband would take both of the boys on outings in order for me to have some quiet recovery from the week. After a while, our older son's bolting and growing strength coupled with our younger son's inability to follow quick directions caused us to change our course of action.

We then became a family divided.

The norm these days is for my husband to take our older son on his outings while I am home or running errands with our younger son--who, by the way, LOVED this plan. At that point, he was old enough to know that "autism trips" were boring exercises of up and down escalators, in and out of elevators or round and round on carousels.

When he comes home at night, Daddy is on duty to immediately go on an evening trip. Then the kids bathe, and our older son does another quick car ride. On the weekends while Dad works at the office, mom takes over his job until he returns for an afternoon trip. Any free time is spent on the road.

It wasn't until this past Saturday evening that I was able to spend more than a couple minutes with my husband. Is his hair shorter? I couldn't tell if he'd had a haircut this past week or not. Do I remember that sweater of his? Lol--I wonder if he can quickly recall my middle name?

How high was the divorce rate in autism again? Eighty percent? Oh dear. I hope he remembers why he married me. I'm too tired to run a promotional campaign to remind him, and life just keeps on going...

One recent Saturday morning, our older son and I piled into the van to take our morning trip. Through a series of directives from him--"left", "right" or "straight"--he brought us both to the quiet parking lot of our area amusement park.

"Closed," I said. "Oh, dear! We won't see it again until next summer."

"I want walk, please," he said.

Why not? I figured even if the police show up and question me, I've got our son as a pretty good reason as to why we were there. And, by physically checking the gates, which we often do to mall doors on a holiday, he can truly see that the park is closed.

A closed carousel

"The gates will be locked," I warned as we approached the entrance to the park.

We tried every possible entrance.

"The weather is colder, buddy," I said. "The park won't be open until it is so warm you don't need a jacket."

With that, he took off his jacket, proving that the weather that day was just fine for a roller coaster ride, thank you. From gate to gate we walked. We peered past those gates to see that the tea cup ride had been taken apart for the winder. The mini boats were out of the water. Concessions were shut down and locked.

Nobody was there.

Closed teacup ride.

"Sorry, buddy," I offered, wanting to be able to give him just one more day. I wanted desperately to insulate him, but, in the end, that would do him no favors. Processing disappointment is a skill we all need to acquire.

It is hard to live without the things we love. He loves his trips to familiar places. His Dad and I love rest.

The kicker in this situation is that we, the parents, are disappointed when we have to take a trip while he's disappointed when the trip either doesn't happen or doesn't work as planned. Trips, after all, are supposed to be safe and predictable. Why else would we do so many of them--all day, every day and even into the night?

Yet, when I watched him at the local amusement park, checking each gate in the cool autumn breeze, grasping at any sliver of a chance he could find to enter and make that place alive once more, I knew that my husband and I simply must keep providing his trips for him.

I put myself in his shoes, this intelligent boy with his many thoughts and desires trapped inside his mind. This is his outlet. This is his comfort. This is how he can LIVE inside his highly constrictive world.

He needs this, even if the trip takes him to a favorite spot that is closed. For, it is by exploring even a closed area that he is able to keep his world open.


  1. Great post. I love when the photos help tell the story.

  2. You can also put music. I've tried and am not very good at it, but I know some people who are pros!