"Raising a child with ASD is like being a blind captain of a sailing ship with a deaf crew." Dr. Steve Gutstein
Steve and I recently did something we have not done since 1994: vacationed without the children! In fact, the 1994 trip to Las Vegas does not really count because we were attending an autism convention and chose to sit at evening talks instead of slot machines. So, the last time we went somewhere together overnight without kids was when we were, well, without kids! Pathetic, huh? Stories like that are quite common in the autism world because it really is hard to find the right people to understand and take care of our kids. It is no wonder the divorce rate is so high.
Since we moved across the street from my parents, they have spent enough time with Pamela for her to be comfortable with them and vice versa. Over the years, my mother, a fabulous cook, has learned the intricacies of Pamela's diet. She has observed how I help Pamela stay calm and regulated and how I guide Pamela's thinking by applying the principles of RDI. Pamela has become better able to express herself and converse with others. I have taken trips to North Carolina and Minnesota while Pamela stayed at my parents' house. With Steve at work, Mom could always reach him if Pamela threw her a curveball.
Last Friday, we woke up in the wee hours of the morning and drove to Miami to board Majesty of the Seas for our first cruise on a white ship (as former naval officers, we have done plenty of time haze grey and underway).
Pamela stayed with my parents, and she accompanied them on a trip to Charleston with Mom's quilting group. My dad drove the bus. While he parked, Pamela and Mom's friends walked into the auditorium. She took one look at the dazzling array of quilts and little old ladies and was ready to head back home. Dad cannot stand more than five minutes either, so Pamela, Dad, and Elvira (their white standard poodle) cruised the cobblestone streets of Charleston. She chatted with my dad a little to learn the schedule and patiently waited until two o'clock before they finally ate. When she grew tired of walking, they went back to the bus and sat for awhile.
After lunch, the ladies went shopping and Pamela protested, "I want to go home!" She had had enough! My mother quietly explained to her that the ladies never go to Charleston because it is too far away. She promised them a shopping trip, and the ladies would feel so sad if they canceled it. Pamela listened carefully and said, "Okay!"
Pamela referenced my mother for emotional regulation again when their church youth programs coordinator picked up a television donated by my parents. She saw some strange woman hauling off the TV and protested, "No! No! No! That's not yours! It belongs upstairs!" Then, Mom explained, "Pamela, we have too many televisions: the kitchen, parlor, quilt room, television room, and the RV. We don't need it anymore!" Pamela calmed down and said, "Okay!"
Mom noticed Pamela was spending an inordinate amount of time watching programmed television. Indulging in her favorite shows is understandable since we pulled the plugged on cable last May. Mom told her she was watching too much television and needed to get outside for awhile. Pamela protested, of course, but, after the show ended, she put on her shoes and headed outdoors. Then, Mom gave her a tour of their new RV. Pamela loved it so much that she spent part of her day sitting in the back room of the RV for a change of pace.
Pamela's morning routine at my parents' house included taking a bath. Because the tub is upstairs, my mother works up there to make sure nothing floods. Pamela has never had a problem, but Mom didn't want to risk it. Mom had to run errands Monday morning, so she told Pamela she could not bathe until after lunch. Pamela understood and happily adjusted to the new schedule. As soon as they finished lunch, Pamela said, "I want to take a bath!"
Overall, Mom and Dad thoroughly enjoyed having Pamela stay with them and found her to be no trouble at all. While Pamela enjoyed knowing the schedule of the day, she stayed flexible, too. They noticed she had far fewer anxieties and stay much more regulated than in previous stays with them. When she started to get riled up, Mom kept her calm by giving her more information. Even better, Mom was amazed at Pamela's improved ability to have give and take conversations about a wide variety of topics.
What We Did on the Cruise