Category Archives: Family

hodgepodge

It’s been over a month of silence here and for that I apologize.  There’s been a lot going on, but not the kind of stuff that merits a whole post – so perhaps one post with a lot of little things will have to do – hence the title “hodgepodge.”

My 13 year old autistic daughter had her yearly IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting a few weeks ago and she’s doing brilliantly.  She started in a new program back in September and has really flourished. She’s doing so well, in fact, that she’s going to “graduate” from occupational therapy this coming September.  It  was kind of a shock when her occupational therapist suggested it, but it seems the right thing to do.  The tasks she struggles with are not the kind that they help with at school (like maneuvering her bra clasp).  Most of O.T. in the school setting is focused on handwriting, and she has become a pro.  Her O.T. has known her for years and we had the chance to reminisce about the days when we wondered if she would EVER write.  The breakthrough for her came with cursive.  When her teachers introduced that she took to it like a fish to water.  She no longer had to struggle with lifting up and putting down the pencil with each letter – it’s like cursive was made just for her.  Anyway… in September her twice-weekly O.T. sessions will end, and the O.T. will do monthly check-ins with her teacher just to make sure she isn’t regressing in any way.  Great job!

Sweet sixteen is continuing her dream of wanting to be a professional wrestler.  I had hoped this was a passing phase, but it doesn’t look like it.  How I, as a peace-loving and generally gentle soul, ended up with a daughter who loves to fight and punch and throw people around I don’t know (ok, maybe I have a clue or two, but that’s for another post).  Our children are their own people, that’s for sure.  I spend a lot of time taking her to training (wrestling, jiu jitsu & MMA) and trying to understand her need for violence (albeit controlled, “acceptable” violence).

My nine year old son is getting into Minecraft.  I’ve written that he likes to play with dolls and that this makes him feel very insecure since he doesn’t want his friends to know.  Even at nine he’s aware of gender pressures, which is sad.  But Minecraft is generally a boy thing, so at least now he’ll have something in common with some of the other boys at school, since he also isn’t very athletic.

I don’t generally write about my husband since he’s a really private person, but I will share that pressure at work has been exceptionally high lately and money has been a huge concern, so he’s been EXTREMELY stressed and unhappy.  That’s about all I can write, although I wish I could share more because it would be therapeutic for me – but out of respect for him I need to just stop here.

As for me?  My husband’s stress has been rubbing off.  I mean, how can you see someone you love struggle and not be stressed about it?  I’ve also continued to have problems with my fibroids (I have two whoppers in my uterus) – almost constant discomfort, although not what I would call “pain.”  About six years ago I had lost all my baby weight and ran almost everyday and felt really great about my body. Since this fibroid/menopause junk started about three years ago running is uncomfortable – even sitting still can be uncomfortable – and I’ve gained all that weight back.  I’m tired of it and I’ve had enough.  I had my yearly check-up with the gynecologist last week and go for a pelvic ultrasound next week to check on the fibroids.  I also have my yearly check up with my primary doctor coming up and will discuss things with her too.  I’m trying to formulate a course of treatment since it seems like my body is taking its bloody time with menopause (pun intended).   I’ll fill you in when I develop a plan.

With all that’s going on I’m surprised I’m in a generally good place psychologically, even with the stress of my husband’s situation and my physical health.  I’ve been off my psychiatric medication for a year now, and other than the bad day or bad week which is part of LIFE, I’ve been steady.  I am VIGILANT in monitoring myself though – how I’m eating, how I’m sleeping, how much I laugh, how much I cry, my attitude towards the tasks of daily living etc…

Can’t take care of anyone else if I’m not taking care of myself.  That’s true for all of us.  I hope you all are taking care of yourselves.

What have you been up to?

push and pull

I’ve been pretty silent here on the blog lately because I’m having problems deciding what is appropriate to share.  Quite honestly, right now, I’m having more issues navigating life with my 16 year old “typical” daughter than I am with my 13 year old autistic daughter or 9 year old son.  And because my oldest is 16, the issues I’m dealing with are a lot more complicated than potty training or sleeping through the night.  I would have no problems sharing that kind of information here.  But the issues I’m trying to cope with are more interpersonal – my relationship with my daughter, her relationship with me – issues of independence and control.

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write.  Believe me, there have been moments recently where I’ve wanted to lay down a blazing rant, but even in my anger and frustration I still want to protect my daughter’s privacy.  She didn’t ask to have her life chronicled in a blog.  I’m also fully aware that even as I stand tall in self-righteous indignation, I am only seeing my side of the story – or there are times when I can see her side, but think it’s completely ridiculous, or see her side and feel badly for her as a teenager wanting to be older.  I know what it’s like to want to be free from parental control and rules.

One of the HUGE differences between my daughter and me is that I grew up in an abusive home, and actual rebelling was NOT a realistic option for me.  I was brought up not able to openly question or disagree with my parents, especially my father.  Indeed, I grew up with a lot of fear.  I didn’t want that for my children.  The result?  My daughter feels perfectly comfortable disagreeing with and questioning me to my face (and my husband’s face too while we’re at it).  I love that and am SO uncomfortable with it at the same time.

She has always been this way, but since she turned sixteen back in October, there has been a more dramatic shift.  She somehow thinks that sixteen is a license to absolute freedom and autonomy.  Well, not in my house.  I never (to my knowledge) gave her any impression that once she turned sixteen she would be free to do whatever she pleased with whomever she pleased.  So there has been considerable pulling and pushing in the past few months as she has tested the limits.  For example, she can be angry, argue and even yell at me, but on New Year’s Eve she started hurling personal attacks at me, and THAT was unacceptable.  She got grounded for the first time in her life.

I recognize the need to give her more freedom as she shows us that she can handle it.  She gets very good grades and overall has a good head on her shoulders.  But like any normal teenager, her capacity to sense danger is limited if non-existent.  I’m afraid every time she goes out the door and gets in a car with friends (many of her friends are in the next grade up and have their driver’s licenses already – she is still learning).  Isn’t the fact I let her drive in a car with friends to the mall (or so she says) proof that I’m not an overbearing mother?

But the fear is almost overwhelming.  I’m afraid every time she goes to a friend’s house, every time she gets in a car and drives off…  I have set certain rules for those things that I think are reasonable.  But kids will sometimes be kids and work around those rules or lie outright.  I know she doesn’t tell me everything, and I don’t expect that she will.  I can only hope the lies she tells me (or the things she doesn’t tell me) aren’t ones that will endanger her safety.  Perhaps that is my biggest fear.  And there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.

I think my job is to balance my fear with her freedom.  There are times when I have to “suck it up” and let her go, to stifle that voice inside of me that’s screaming “NO!  Don’t you leave this house!”  But there are also times when I need to pay attention to that voice, trust it, and let that voice come out.  But dang it, there’s no rhyme or reason for when to listen to that voice and when stifle it.  Flying by the seat of your pants IS NOT EASY OR FUN.

I had high blood pressure before this.  I think I may need to “up” the dosage on my medication.  I’ve got two and a half years before she graduates from high school.  Then, when she’s living on her own, I’m sure I’ll enter a new kind of hell.  Pray for me please!

brief encounters

I was in Target the other day, by myself, eating lunch before doing some grocery and Christmas shopping.  The past few weeks have been so filled with anxiety that I was relishing having a few minutes to sit at the counter and eat some pizza in peace while the store was bustling around me.  It was noisy and people were moving all about, but I was able to put myself in a bubble for those moments, enjoying people-watching.  Until Olivia burst my bubble.

Seemingly out of nowhere came a little voice, “Hi there!”  I looked and saw this tiny munchkin of a girl, maybe three years old, looking up at me with big beautiful eyes.  I couldn’t help but smile.  “Well hello,” I answered back.  Then I heard her mother call for her to come back to their table and sit down, which she did.  I went back to eating, people watching and scrolling my twitter feed.

A few moments later, “Hi friend!  What’s your name?”  There she was again.  It surprised me and warmed my heart that she called me friend, reminding me of preschool etiquette and Mr. Rogers (who I deeply miss – the world needs more like him!).  “My name is Lisa.  What’s yours?” I replied.  “Olivia,” she answered, and again, her mother called her back, this time with a warning that she either needed to stay put, or BE put in the toddler high chair.  I watched her as she went back to her mom.

Mom looked a little frazzled.  Schlepping a toddler through Target so close to Christmas would frazzle the best of us, and I felt compassion for her.  I’ve been there myself.  I pondered whether or not to go over and introduce myself and sit with them since Olivia was clearly interested in getting to know me better, but the introvert in me won out and I just smiled at her mom, hopefully conveying an “it’s okay, she’s not bothering me,” look.  I always go out of my way to be gentle to moms struggling with kids in stores – like I said, I’ve been there myself, and looks of reassurance always meant so much to me.

Something changed in me in that moment.  Olivia and her mom had given me a gift.  Instead of being in my own little bubble, trying to escape from my worries and fears, I suddenly felt grateful.  Grateful for that tiny beautiful face calling me “friend,” grateful that my children were in school so I could shop in peace, yet also grateful (in the present) for those years when they were young and curious and wouldn’t stay in their seats.  My worries and anxiety melted away for a few minutes, replaced by the joy of this little girl’s curiosity and trust.

I thought of how I could help Olivia’s mom if Olivia escaped her seat again – and of course I had my chance.  She came over to me and said hello again, and her mom looked at me with a face that said, “I’m SO sorry she’s being a pest.”  Well, she wasn’t being a pest in the least, but it was time for me to help this tired mama.  I got off my stool and got eye-level with Olivia and gently but firmly told her (loud enough so her mom could hear), “You know Olivia, I’m a mommy too, and we mommies stick together.  I can tell your mommy really needs for you to sit in your seat and finish your lunch, so I want you to do that for her okay?”  She looked disappointed, but her mother looked relieved and mouthed “thank you.”  I gave them both a big smile as Olivia went back to her seat.  I gathered up my garbage, said goodbye to them and left to do my shopping.

We mommies do (or at least should) stick together.  Our children are beautiful gifts, but they can also challenge our sanity.  When we can show just a little patience and kindness for each other, it can go a long long way.  It means the world but doesn’t cost a cent.

Thanksgiving

Today in the United States we celebrate a national holiday called Thanksgiving.  It’s a day to stop and remember to be grateful – grateful as a nation for our freedoms, and grateful as individuals.  There’s been A LOT of debate about that “national” part of it recently, with hysteria in some circles over refugees, but other than asserting that our national history dictates we MUST welcome refugees, I don’t want to talk about that now.  (Just wanted you to know where I stood.)

In this space, right now, I would like to share the things for which I am thankful.  It’s an important thing to do once in a while, because if we aren’t conscious about naming the things we’re thankful for, we can either 1) forget, or 2) take them for granted.  Naming those things helps keep us grounded, and in the chaotic world in which we live that is certainly important.

I am thankful for my ever-patient husband.  We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this year.  As with any couple who have been together that long, we’ve been through a lot together.  We’ve had bumpy patches – we still do.  There are days we don’t like each other very much; days where conversation is strained; days where marriage feels HEAVY.  I am not an easy person to live with – I require too much time alone, I keep too much to myself.  I am SO thankful that he accepts me, and pushes me out of my solitude (even when I push back).  He loves me, and that tells you A LOT about his character.  I’m a lucky woman.

I am thankful for my older daughter, now sixteen.  She is pushing way too many buttons for me to even mention here.  She reminds me of myself, yet she is a person I never was.  I am struggling mightily right now (along with my husband) to strike the balance between protecting her (from others and herself) and giving her the freedom to be herself and even to make mistakes from which to learn.  I feel like I’m walking a tightrope with no net.  It’s more frightening than I ever could’ve imagined.  As she gets closer to legal independence the more serious this tightrope walk gets.  Dang.  But she is AMAZING.  She is forging her own path, making her own way.  She is smart, funny, loyal, passionate, and she is (and will be) a tremendous gift to the world.

I am thankful for my younger daughter, who next month will officially become a teenager.  With her autism she has overcome in her almost thirteen years more than some people have been through in a lifetime.  She works SO hard everyday.  Her teachers and my husband and I have worked SO hard with her.  And that hard work is paying off.  A few months ago she made the leap from an autism focused program, to a district special education classroom!  We are all so proud of her.  She is friendly and cheerful, wanting to make connections with people.  She wants to be a teacher or a fashion designer.  I’m not sure if either of those things will/can happen, but whatever she does she brings light with her.

I am thankful for my son, nine.  He still loves to hug his mama.  He still loves to cuddle.  Although he can very well go to sleep by himself, he still likes me to sit with him while he does – and I don’t mind. He draws better at nine than I do at almost 50!  He has his struggles being at the end of the “child” line in the house.  He has his struggles being a boy that likes to play with dolls (shhh… don’t tell his friends).  He is smart, sensitive, creative and energetic and I can’t wait to see how he continues to grow.

I am thankful for my online community, which includes all of you who read this.  Those of you who follow me through WordPress or on Twitter have given me a life-giving creative and supportive outlet for all my musings.  The various camps I hop between:  autism, parenthood, mental health, and faith have been true lifesavers – keeping me from feeling isolated and alone – and not just alone but from the feeling like I am in the only one in world going through some of this stuff!  I am so incredibly thankful for you – you really have no idea…

I am thankful for the people in my past – the ones who held me and even the ones who hurt me.  They are all part of the person I am today, and for the most part I like myself.  I am thankful for the people in my present.  I am thankful for the country in which I live.  It is most certainly not perfect, and right now my level of frustration if pretty high.  I know that there are people within our borders who do not have the same level of freedom I do, even if we claim it on paper.  I know there are people who have even more freedom than me.  I promise to do everything I can to point out the flaws when I see them, and celebrate the successes when we have them.

I am thankful first of all, most of all, for my faith.  I can’t put it neatly into one paragraph, but without faith, the family above never would’ve come into being.  My faith grounds me, keeps me humble, lifts me up, pushes me, gives me strength.  Faith is the beginning of the person I am and the person I am becoming – a journey not a destination.

Enough about me.  What are you thankful for today – and why?  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  And for those who struggle with these family related holidays – remember family isn’t just blood.  Family is the people who love you and look out for you and push you and protect you and laugh with you and cry with you.  (just my 2 cents…)

when they’re sick

In the past month all three of my children have been sick.  It started with my teenager.  Almost a week with a nasty cough.  Coughing with her makes me nervous – very nervous.  She has asthma, which can make these things worse.  But it’s not just the asthma.  It’s a mistake I made when she was four years old (before she had asthma) that will stay with me forever.

She had a cough then.  A cough that wouldn’t go away.  I kept her home from preschool for a week, letting her rest – thinking she would get over it.  Week two came and while she was still coughing, otherwise she seemed fine.  I made the decision to send her to preschool – she was only enrolled for half-days, and I figured a few hours back with friends would actually be a good thing.  Two hours after I dropped her off I got a call from the preschool director, “She’s as white as a sheet and just wants to sleep.”  When I got to the school she looked like a ghost.  She fell asleep within minutes of me putting her in the car.  I called the pediatrician while driving (a no-no these days, but this was 12 years ago and I was WORRIED).  They told me to bring her right in.  The doctor put the stethoscope to her back, and a worried/something-is-wrong look came over her face.  A few more listens just to make sure, she stood up and said, “She has pneumonia.  I want to send her for a chest x-ray.”  I sent my daughter to school with pneumonia.  Good God.  What an awful mother.  (As much as you tell yourself you didn’t know, and never would’ve sent them to school knowing they were really sick, there are few things more powerful or irrational as mommy-guilt.)  A chest x-ray later we were going home with antibiotics and another week or so of being home-bound. A few years after that we would have our first experience with the wheezing that goes along with asthma, and I’ve often wondered if that bout of pneumonia did something to make her lungs more susceptible to it.

Anyway, since then my mommy guilt gets the better of me when my kids are sick and I tend to err on the side of caution.  That said, my children are consistently pretty healthy.  In the past two years I think they’ve had less than a handful of sick visits (knocks on wood…).  So when my asthmatic teenager has a cough that won’t go away and starts to feel lethargic – I TAKE HER TO THE DOCTOR.  And I did.  She was fine, the doctor said.  Just keep doing what you’re doing to get her over this cold/cough.  My husband looked at me like I was an over-emotional worrier, but I didn’t care.

 

Next up was middle child – my “almost” teenager who also happens to have autism.  When she’s sick the whole world knows.  She coughed for about a week just like her big sister and we muddled through without giving her any medicine, because it’s a world war to get her to take any kind of medication.  By some miracle though we were able to find a cough drop she would tolerate to at least keep her throat from being too scratchy.  It wasn’t pleasant, but not too bad – and she didn’t miss any school.

Last with the cough was my nine year old son.  He too had the cough for about a week and muddled through, except that after a week it hadn’t gone away, and on Halloween (a beautiful Saturday) he was “done” trick-or-treating in an hour, wanting to “go home – I’m tired.”  UH OH.  Saturday night he had a low-grade fever.  UH OH.  Sunday the fever went away and he seemed a little better during the day, but he didn’t sleep well at all so I kept him home from school on Monday.  He was still droopy on Tuesday, so another day at home.  By Tuesday night he spiked a fever over 101(f).  BIG UH OH. Wednesday morning, first thing, I planned to call the doctor.  My husband (who never wants any of us to be sick – we “half” jokingly refer to him as Howard Hughes), was pretty condescending, telling me I was paranoid and rolling his eyes.  He was sure it would be a waste of money to take him to the doctor only to get the same message we’d gotten a few weeks earlier with our teen.

When money is a constant worry in your life, a hundred dollar doctor visit needs to be well thought out.  We haven’t met our deductible this year, so office visits are still coming “out of pocket,” and a visit costs almost $100.

My husband wasn’t being heartless.  He was being the thinker, the logical level-headed one.  Often in our relationship we take turns being emotional and/or rational – and we usually balance each other out well so that we aren’t panicking at the same time.  But in that moment I could’ve slapped him.  My mama bear panic was starting to set in, and no matter how hard I tried to think logically, my instinct told me to get to the doctor as fast as I could.  I am determined NOT to ever go through again what I went through with my teen when she was four.

As my droopy feverish (although not as bad as the night before) son sat on the exam table, the doctor got that same worried look I remembered from years before as she listened to his chest.  Walking pneumonia.  They’re seeing a lot of it this fall…  After some helpful advice (keep doing what you’re doing) and a prescription for a STRONG antibiotic, we were on our way home.

BEST hundred dollars I could ever spend.

AND… I completely resisted the urge to tell my husband “I told you so,” although I AM sharing that thought with all of you. 😉

 

parades

I’m generally not the kind of parent who cries over my kids getting older.  I didn’t feel sad on my firstborn’s first day of preschool, or her first day of kindergarten.  Truth be told, I was actually kind of glad.  When she started preschool my belly was big with baby #2, and I needed some time a few days a week to keep sane.  When she started kindergarten I had a special needs toddler and baby #3 on the way, so yeah.  It worked well, because she was a very independent child, and rather than clinging and crying for me at these milestones, she just said, “See you later mommy,” and walked away.

Recently my husband and I went out to lunch and we saw a young couple at another table with a baby in a rear-facing car seat (you know the kind you can snap in and out of the car that doubles as a carrier). At some point in our time together he pointed at them and said, “Don’t you miss those days?”  My response, “Hell no.”  I’m so happy to be done with car seats, diapers, potty training; done with talking to my kids in that distinctive “grown-up-to-little-person” tone of voice.  I have enjoyed my children more as they have gotten older, as I can share more ideas and experiences with them, have more complex conversations with them, and don’t have to worry about baby-proofing or having breakables out and about the house.  But every once in a while, something will come along and my response surprises me.  One of those things happened the other day.

On Friday, my son’s school had their annual Halloween parade.  All the kids in his K-4 school march around the school in their costumes while a loving crowd cheers them on.  Right before my husband and I left home to go watch the parade, I realized this would be our second-to-the-last Halloween parade EVER.  He’s in third grade now, and next year when he’s in fourth grade – that will be IT – because the middle school doesn’t have a parade.  I was shocked by how sad I felt that after next year all our kids will have aged out of this major ritual.  I’m sure he’ll still dress up and trick-or-treat, but the parade will be a thing of the past.

I find that these moments of grieving their childhoods hit me when I least expect it.  It’s not the obvious “big” things that get to me – the first day of school, first sleepovers, first missing tooth.  It’s the things I would never think of, like the way they might turn towards me to say something and suddenly look “different” than the day before, or a Halloween parade.  You never know when it’ll hit you – but when it does you just have to roll with it – the conundrum of being a parent – practically from the moment they’re born, you start the process of letting them go.

my ninja warrior

my ninja warrior

autism on vacation

My family spent the last two weeks of August traveling around the southwestern part of the United States.  It was an “adventure” to say the least.  Traveling and sharing ONE hotel room with a husband three children (ages 9 to almost 16) is challenging.  My middle child, a daughter, has autism, and that greatly multiplies the challenges.

my kids and our friends' daughter at the Grand Canyon

my kids and our friends’ daughter at the Grand Canyon

We never could have imagined taking this trip just one year ago.  Even taking it this year was difficult enough.  I am grateful that my autistic daughter is relatively high functioning.  I am grateful for all the progress she has made in the past few years.  Even so, there were times that I reached my limit.  Thankfully we were also traveling with friends, so they were able to help take up some of the slack when I needed space.

Most autistic people need structure – a routine. It gives them a sense of security in knowing what’s expected of them, but also what to expect from their surroundings.  Actually I think the same is true for ALL of us, but with autistic people it’s even more important.  My daughter is no exception.  When she is away from familiar surroundings and routines, some of her “unique” behaviors become even more prominent.

  • Even on a good day her speaking voice is loud, we remind her several times a day to use an “indoor” voice, or to speak quieter.  The further along we got on this trip, the louder she became. Her baseline volume seemed to increase each day!
  • She hasn’t flapped since she was little, but she “examines” her hands sometimes, and will stroke her hair.  Not only did she play with her hair constantly, she also started stretching her arms out over her head (you know, like you do when you wake up in the morning) to “exercise.”  I think she was finding ways to physically release stress and excitement.  Perhaps we should’ve found a fidget to help her, but we never imagined we would need something like that since she hasn’t had one of those in years.
  • Her eye contact became increasingly worse as the trip wore on, and she became more clumsy than usual, ex. spilling drinks at dinner, dropping and BREAKING a souvenir our friends’ daughter had bought (luckily right after the purchase, so she was able to replace it immediately). My daughter became much more high maintenance around the table, needing help to cut food, constant reminders to chew with her mouth closed.  It didn’t help that we ate out for every meal and were trying different kinds of foods, although we were very careful to find places for her and my 9 year old son that served food they liked.
  • Speaking of which – – her CONSTANT focus on FOOD!  (The technical term is “perseveration.”) She was always asking, “What’s for lunch?” “What’s for dinner?”  Sometimes she asked about lunch right after we’d eaten breakfast, or asked about dinner right after lunch.  And she would also repeat the question.  She’d ask, “What’s for dinner,” we’d give her an answer, then an hour later she’d us again, and so on.
when we got to Las Vegas (short stop to fly home), she spent quite some time stimming on the view from our window

when we got to Las Vegas (short stop to fly home), she spent quite some time stimming on the view from our window

I realize all these behaviors are ways she was using to cope with the constant change in her environment, and not being able to anticipate what she would be seeing and where we were going.  But understanding the behaviors and being able to put up with them are two different things.  The regular stress of such a trip, dealing with her siblings, my husband (at times) and even with our friends PLUS her gave me moments of complete exasperation.

These moments when I hit my limit are not pretty.  I call them “mommy meltdowns.”  The tears flow and my nose runs and a headache soon follows.  I hate autism.  I hate my daughter for being who she is – then I hate myself for hating her and being angry, and I feel like the world’s WORST mother and human being for having those feelings. I also hate myself because I know there are many autism families who cope with much worse than we do.  AND THERE YOU HAVE IT – a full blown pity party and guilt trip rolled into one.  Like I said, not pretty.  And having a mommy meltdown (I actually had two on this trip) in front of friends, even good friends, adds embarrassment into the mix, which just made me feel UGLY.

I don’t mean to imply that we had an awful vacation.  It was wonderful to see our nation’s national parks and to enjoy time with friends.  The kids complained as kids do, but overall it was fine (although not something I’m in hurry to repeat).  But I am so very thankful to be home.  Thankful the kids have started back to school, thankful for the routine.  Thankful for my daughter’s routine, which gives her comfort.  And when she is comfortable, the rest of us, me especially, are a LOT more comfortable too. We may go on vacation, but autism NEVER does.


I’m no expert, just a mom who’s been in the autism camp for almost 13 years, and here are some tips for traveling with autism:

  1. If at all possible, plan a vacation in ONE place.  This is what we usually do.  Go to the beach and stay there.  Don’t be hotel hopping from one place to another like we did this year.  At first your lodgings will be strange, but after a day or two it will become more comfortable and everyone will relax a bit.
  2. Just accept it and don’t try to eat fancy or different.  My husband and our friends wanted to experience some of the foods of the culture, and I understood that.  And one night we did manage to get my daughter to try a simple burrito.  But autistic children are FAMOUS for being picky eaters. You live with it at home and you can’t expect it to be different on the road.  One night we separated and while the rest of the group ate sushi, I took my younger two kids to Pizza Hut. Less complaining, more actual eating, and it was cheaper too. Pick your battles.
  3. Bring their comfort objects.  This is a no-brainer, although the fear of losing said comfort objects may tempt you to leave them home.  Thankfully my daughter is approaching teen years and so her kindle is now her “thing.”  There was a time not too long ago when it was a bag filled with toys, and boy did we have to search before we left a place to make sure we had found EVERY single one of them.  Make a checklist of everything you bring for them, and check it off before you leave. That way you don’t forget.
  4. If you’re traveling to a place they’ve never been show them pictures.  Explain as much about the place as you can.  I wish we had done more of this.  My daughter had never heard of Arches National Park or Bryce Canyon.  She knew a bit what to expect at the Grand Canyon, but not many of the other places we went.  If she HAD known, perhaps her anxiety wouldn’t have been as high and she would have been calmer.
  5. Know what to do for yourself.  After my first mommy meltdown, I stayed up after everyone had gone to sleep and had some quiet time.  The next morning I got up early and had a heart to heart with my husband so that he knew what was going on and so I could give him concrete ways to help me that day.  For example, “I CANNOT sit next to her in the car today.”  (We were travelling in an 8 seat Suburban – 5 of us, 3 of our friends, NO spare room).  He and our friends made sure I had my space.  I also wrote in my journal EVERY day, which helps me sort through my feelings.

Traveling with autism isn’t easy, but with the right preparation, (a care plan in place for you AND your child), it IS doable.  And if you’re child is too severely affected to even think about a trip, then please, for YOUR sanity, sometimes “home” is the best place to be.  Take the money you would’ve spent going away and hire help to give you little breaks throughout the school break.