April 7, 2014

Going Solo

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , at 9:15 am by autismmommytherapist

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To the casual onlooker it was not a remarkable scene.  A middle-aged mom trudging through the rain, huge beach bag slung precariously over her shoulder while clutching the hands of a tween and a younger son, heading for the relative paradise of a movie theater overhang.  If anyone had cared to look they would have viewed a grim determination in her eyes, a desire to reach her destination etched into the lines on her face.  Someone might have wondered why she looked so serious, as it was just a day at the movies after all.

Except, it wasn’t simply that.

It was the first time she’d ever taken both her autistic kids on an outing, solo.

I’m aware that taking two or more kids to run errands or attend an event is not a rare occurrence in neurotypical world, and to some extent not in the world of autism either.  Trust me, my reticence in bringing both boys out on my own was not due to a lack of desire, but rather due to a need to keep both of them safe.

For the last few years Justin has often refused to remain in even the most entertaining locations for more than half an hour, and until now brokering deals with my younger son about leaving places early was simply not in the cards.  Also, both are impulsive and had a tendency to try to run away if annoyed (or in Justin’s case, if he’d sensed a carbohydrate was nearby.)  It just wasn’t safe for us to venture out on our own, so either I’d corral someone to go with me, or we’d stay home.  Since I’m an out-and-about girl this situation did not sit well with me, and I longed for the day we’d brave the wilds of the world just the three of us.

Finally, that day has come.

I was able to make a deal with Zach that if Justin wanted to leave the movie early we’d do so, but that he’d get to view it again at another date.  I explained to him that he had to stay at my side at all times as well, and he comprehended both points, and promised to comply.  I’ve worked diligently with the assistance of a BCBA to get Justin to the point where he can attend an entire film, so I felt confident we had a shot of pulling this off.

Plus, I took them to AMC’s showing of the “autism movie,” where almost any type of behavior goes.  I was not taking any chances.

I have to share with all of you that they were excellent.  Zach stayed glued to my side, and took it upon himself to hold Justin’s hand and guide him to the trifecta of tickets, bathroom, and popcorn acquisition.  In perhaps a moment of divine intervention Justin’s BCBA who was working with another family happened to sit down behind us, so I felt covered.  And last, by parceling out our popcorn supply I managed to satisfy both boys’ junk food requirements, and even got to sneak a few kernels when Justin wasn’t looking.

I’ll share with you that popcorn stealing from Justin is no mean feat.

We had a great time together, enough so that if I really get brave I can contemplate an afternoon at the boardwalk, or perhaps even a few hours at Great Adventure.  I’m certain each time my heart will reside somewhere in my throat for the duration of the event, as with autism things are often unpredictable for my boys.  No matter how old they become I may never entirely relinquish that feeling.

But today I’m going to banish those thoughts and just revel in our accomplishment.

I have to tell you that if two or three years ago someone had told me we’d be able to do this together I would have laughed, and suggested it might be possible once Zachary could drive.  I remind myself as I embrace this new and welcome change that I must keep myself open to their recent forays into independence, help shape them so that more and more things are possible for this family.

As we exit the theater I look down at my smallest son and smile, and ask him if he liked the film.  He replies in the affirmative, and states he’s having the best day ever, a sentiment I hope he retains when I ask him later to clean his room.  Justin is “eeeing” rather quietly next to me, rocking slightly on the balls of his feet as we make our way to the car, a slight grin emanating from his face.  My boys are happy.  I have to remember they’ve matured, that it’s okay to take chances now and again.

And as always, I have to nurture hope.




June 7, 2011

Gratitude Attitude

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:05 pm by autismmommytherapist

This past weekend I took Justin to AMC’s showing of the “sensory friendly” movie, which happens generally once a month in specific theaters, Saturday mornings at 10:00. It’s an event for which I like to show my support, and even though Justin no longer needs it, there are plenty of families with children on the autism spectrum who do. The lights are only partially dimmed, no previews are shown, and within reason, anything goes. I’ve sat through showings where children vocally stimmed the entire time, walked around the theater, or simply cried. It’s a place where families can go for an hour-and-a-half monthly and just let it all “hang out”, which is a beautiful thing. As long as nobody is yelling in Justin’s ear he’s perfectly happy, and his mom is equally content to contribute to AMC’s coffers.

This past Saturday we attended Kung Fu Panda Two (a brilliant assessment of which was written up on Professor Mother’s Blog recently), and not only did I get to relax for seventy-five consecutive minutes (well, I did have to work with a lanyard, but it’s worth it), I myself was the recipient of an act of kindness which was worth a dedication from this week’s Gratitude Attitude. Since I’m always cold and continually assume my children are as well, while getting Justin out of the car I actually remembered to bring his favorite sweatshirt with me (yes, I know it’s his favorite because this season it’s the only one he’ll wear).

Upon reaching the theater and waiting in line for our tickets, I happened to glance down into my foolishly open bag and realized said sweatshirt was no longer with us. Of course, I had to talk to myself out loud about this conundrum while scanning the lobby for his red threads, but neither attempt at recovering his sweatshirt paid off. I knew the chances of my taking him out to the parking lot to look for it and returning alive were slim, so I let it go, and hoped I’d find it wedged in the back seat of my car.

Fat chance.

After spending another thousand dollars on snacks we really didn’t require (those delicious Junior mints come to mind), we finally made a quick trip to the bathroom. When we exited, I came face-to-face with two lovely gentlemen, one of whom was holding a slightly dirty, but still intact, red sweatshirt. I smiled and blurted out “Oh, I think that’s ours”, and he replied “I know. We heard you talking about losing it in line, so we went out to the parking lot and found it for you. It looked like you needed a little help.”

Understatement of the year.

I thanked both men profusely, and allowed my eager child to then drag me to theater three. I was neither solicited nor asked for my phone number (the forty-four-year-old mother of two being the big draw these days), and just after I managed to thank them both, they disappeared around the corner.

I don’t have to tell you, that experience made my day. I keep saying “it’s the little things”, and for me, they truly are what keeps me going.

So, this week’s Gratitude Attitude goes to two men whose names I’ll never know, who extended to me an act of kindness that truly lightened my load, and put me in a good mood that lasted the duration of the day (and that’s saying a lot).

Thank you so much, and hope I can return the favor!