Nothing Without Preparation: Autism and Spontaneity Do Not Mix

by J

It sure has been a while since I have written… I’ve put on a ridiculous amount of weight over the last six months, and I’ve been spending my mornings furiously trying to work it off (9 lbs down!!). So, I haven’t had much time to write. However, lots of big things are coming up within the next few weeks and months, and so I am taking this rest day to get caught up.

Just to give you an idea on what we are up against, within the next few months we will:

  1. Move
  2. Go on vacation to the Ocean
  3. Determine S’s eligibility for an IEP
  4. Start two sport activities with other children
  5. Have two new children start in his current class
  6. Celebrate S’s 3rd birthday
  7. Possibly switch all school and therapy programs or lose all services all together
  8. Possibly place S, alone, on a school bus to go to school.

That is quite the list for any family with typical children; for children who need a great deal of preparation just to walk in someone’s home, this is a massive list. This list sends my heart beating out of control. This list has sent me to the liquor store more than once. We are in a major prepping mode. We are preparing for battle.

I’ve started easy… preparing for our trip to the ocean. Heck, at least this change is fun and is something that I am looking forward to, sort of. For most families, prepping for this might involve telling your child that you plan to take a trip to the ocean, maybe reading a story about going to the beach and then simply packing your shit and heading out for a great time.

Well, it ain’t that kind of party at our house. I’ve been prepping for weeks.

I learned our lesson the last two years… S and the beach- namely sand- are NOT a good combo. The ocean is such a huge sensory experience- for anyone really. I think that is why so many people are drawn to the ocean. However, for kids on the spectrum, especially those with sensory issues, it can be a sensory nightmare.

So, I started with a mini sandbox in the back yard. It took over two hours, across two separate attempts, to get S to put his feet in the sand. This was a MAJOR breakthrough for someone with sensory issues with his feet. Had I just taken him to the beach, with its seemingly endless land of sand, there is NO way he would’ve adjusted. That’s what happened the last two years. He just shut down and then melted down. By taking it slow in our yard, with a small amount, on his time, we were able to get him comfortable with sand. (In fairness, I even prepped him for the sandbox- watching videos, talking about it and buying him special  ‘sand shoes’ (water shoes) before going to get our sandbox).

Yes folks, I had to prepare him to start preparing him. 

We then moved him to a big sandbox at the park. We went with a typical friend, so he could see how much fun it is with someone he knows and trusts. I had then planned to take him on a mini trip to one of the smaller beaches in the area, but they don’t open for another two weeks. So now, we are watching videos on YouTube. (I LOVE YouTube- its like moving social stories for everything in life.) We were able to find one of the beach we will be visiting- so he can see the actual boardwalk, ocean, landscape, etc. I even purchased, and set up, a beach tent in our living room so he could pretend being at the beach and be able to recognize something familiar when we finally get there.

He seems excited… so I hope he enjoys it… we spent WAY too much time in our room last year because it was just too much for him. With all of this preparation, I certainly hope for a few hours by the waves.

I have been preparing for this trip for a few weeks now (we don’t go until the end of the month) and I started preparing him for soccer this week as well (he starts that next month). And, with our great big list above, I have so many other things to prepare him for… much bigger things. Most kids just start soccer, or go on vacation… but not ASD kids. They need to know exactly what they are walking into at all times… and there is still no guarantee of success. Its overwhelming really, and something I hope he grows out of in time. But for now, we will watch videos of people we don’t know playing by the ocean.

And hopefully, if all of this hard work pays off, we will be able to make our own beach videos soon.