Opinions differ as to whether it’s best to train a child on the autism spectrum to fit in and not explode or whether to train society to be more accommodating to those who don’t fit the mould and to stop hurdling unpredictable sensory obstacles. Unfortunately neither approach is failsafe. I try wherever possible to find environments for my three aspies that are accepting of difference and as non-judgemental as possible. I love places where my boys can be their own quirky selves and people don’t seem to mind. I’ve also tried to “house train” them with some of the pleasantries of life such as please, thank you and eye contact.
This year we combined a family holiday with a family Christmas, all with outstanding success, and a few mini meltdowns. I’ve finally learnt that in order for my kids to have their kind of party, they need to do it their own way. Casey’s idea of a great time is choosing a few of his favourite foods from the resort shop and watching a movie that he’s seen 1000 times surrounded by his favourite friends, his Lego. Being left alone with the occasional apple juice delivery is Casey’s idea of a holiday. So that’s what he did. We somehow managed to drag him to the pool a couple of times, and to a magic show, which he loved, but his joy came from peace and quiet.
Bailey’s idea of a holiday is somewhat different. Swimming, dancing, playing and being free to run are all top of his list. Some quiet time to build and an Ipad round out the perfect holiday for Bailey. Although the lifeguards were constantly asking Bailey to stop running between pools, he had a blast just being free. Only one incident where he did a flip into the pool and landed on his tailbone; which is pretty good for a kid with ADHD who had Coco Pops for breakfast each day. Bailey also found joy in serving us at the buffet breakfast each day. It became difficult to curb his enthusiasm for serving once we were fed and had two drinks each he started asking random tables if he could cook them some toast or get them a cold beverage!
Archie was determined to join into any activity he could. Face painting, Wii Dance, magic shows, colouring in competitions, meeting dress up characters and high fiving Santa. Anything he could get involved with, he would. Swimming wasn’t enough unless there was a game or a friend to play with. All round he was by far our most social, and sunburnt, by the end of our holiday!
If there’s ever a cause for holiday meltdowns it’s food. So this time, we let them eat all of their favourites. Although the pizza didn’t come in a red box, it was accepted as being “holiday pizza”. No onions, no chicken and extra pepperoni, the boys had holiday pizza every night and often for lunch too. The continental breakfast buffet became an opportunity to try out some new foods on Casey. We promised him a trip to the resort shop if he tried 10 new things. Rice bubbles, coco-pops, cornflakes, muesli, croissants, and toast were all attempted and as the plasticity of his face and expressions of disgust increased we failed to find any new foods he would tolerate.
He settled on some Scotch Fingers from the shop and apple juice. I’m not sure what the cleaning staff thought of the wastage on the table, but I considered it the cost of research, even if it failed.
Five am on the 25th of December I woke to two boys in Santa hats, tiptoeing past to see what was under the home made pencil and crayon Christmas tree we had taped to the resort room wall. The excitement could only be contained until 5.20am and we were all up enjoying Christmas morning. Lego smiles were bountiful and by 10 am the Star Wars Republic Gunship was made. We said goodbye to the resort and headed for part two of our Holiday, our family Christmas lunch on Granmar’s Farm with their 7 cousins.
The New Year will bring new rewards charts, new homework rules, new teachers and all three aspies at school. Speech therapy, paediatrician visits and occupational therapy sessions have already been booked in. I’m looking forward to spending more time writing and expanding playgroup for more families to enjoy. Mostly I’m looking forward to seeing my boys reach more milestones and successes; and planning my next holiday.