Autism & Travelling
My husband and I are going on a trip!
We leave tomorrow to bring the kids to Brantford, and then we're heading off to Europe with my in-laws, and my husbands grandpa. We'll spend a week in Belgium (where my husbands' family is from), then travel south and have a few days in France, then turn around and go north towards Breda (where my Dad is from), and along the Western coast of the Netherlands making many stops along the way, and ending in Amsterdam for a few days. It'll be a 2 week trip total, which is some ways doesn't seem like it will be long enough, but in other ways, it'll be plenty long!
I sat crying with my girls last night, asking them to take good care of their brother who has autism. Caleb has grown, and matured, and developed in so many ways in the last few years. On one hand I feel confident he will be perfectly fine without us....and then on the other hand, he's always had my husband and I to bring him back from the brink; to understand him when no-one else does, to just know what he needs to calm down and restart. I can't write enough notes about "how to deal with Caleb while we're away" to feel like I've covered all my bases because, unfortunately, autism isn't just a simple game of baseball. It might feel like it for a time, then suddenly, just when you're getting the hang of it, it's a new game all together!
I am anxious about leaving the girls too; they are sweet and sassy, and have their quirks. They are both sensitive (whether or not they always show it), and feel deeply the things that are going on around them (well, sometimes Keziah is oblivious, but once she realizes something is going on, she's attentive and caring!). They are wonderful little dears, and I gave them a big job while talking with them last night: be your brother's helper!
They get him, they are "good" with him, but they are also just kids. And siblings on top of being kids, so they egg Caleb on at times, feel hurt and confused by his actions and reactions, and don't know how to see which direction he's heading emotionally, and how to help him out. They've seen Adam and I doing it a million times, but that doesn't mean they know how to do it. That's part of what worries me in going away.
We've spent the last 11 years getting to know Caleb; we weren't given a manual, just each day hitting us, and we're left making mental notes, using a lot of trial and error, and making our lives as a family as safe as possible. So, even though he's going to be staying with family who loves him, and wants the best for him, it doesn't mean he'll be understood, or treated properly (he'll be treated very well, but that's different than being treated 'properly'). He is equal parts regular 11 year old boy (cheeky, obnoxious, loves rude humour), and autism mystery (rambling phrases from movies, crotch grabbing, mind blindness). I'll say to myself, "he'll really be fine!"...and then in the next thought go, "...but what if he isn't?" Because that is what a lot of our days look like: he's fine, fine, fine, fine, fine.....ka-boom (not fine, fyi)!!.....fine, fine, fine...You get it. With Adam and I, we know how to read him (mostly), and how to help him use his words, make "blue" (good) choices instead of "red" (bad) choices. and how to be a bucket-filler (doing things that help others feel good and happy). So, that job is now on his 5 and 6 year old sisters shoulders....geepers.
The other thing about leaving that worries me (and breaks my heart) is wondering when Caleb will realize we're really gone. We've told him we're going away, but he is (currently) so focused on going to visit family in Brantford, I don't think he's really cares or understands!
I am really happy he loves his family so much that he is looking forward to visiting, but put yourself into his mind for a moment: we've been visiting family before when Adam and I will go out for an evening, then we are always back in the morning. So on this trip, when does Caleb wake up and say, "where the heck are my Mom and Dad?" and will he find the words to ask that out loud, or will he slowly and secretly get more worried and confused by our absence? We'll be calling the kids while we're away obviously, but will it click? I'm not sure. I'm just not sure.
This particular post has no real purpose except to give me a chance to get my thoughts and worries out...I don't have any real tips or tricks because this is new to me!!! I've only been away from Caleb overnight maybe two or three times in his life (that I can remember-excluding sleep-overs at the cousins when I am still 'technically' around). And every time I returned, he would say, "Mom! You back!" (yes, "you", not "you're"). He always said it like he was genuinely surprised I came back, as though he thought that was it; I'd packed up and left.
We have many military families in our church, and I'm thinking about one idea a friend used for her kids when her husband was away: she had a jar full of...uh, something, I can't remember! Haha, anyway, a jar, and in it was the number of days their Dad would be away, in item form. So, I could use a jar with candies (for instance), and each day the kids could take a candy out to visually see the jar getting emptier, and our arrival getting closer. Caleb may understand this visual, or he may just want to eat the candy!...maybe I should use a non-food item...whomp whomp, anyway...a calendar could do a similar job; marking off the days with an "x" until we get home.
I also thought that using a map to help Caleb (and the girls too) see exactly where we are could be helpful. Maybe every time we call, they can put a sticker onto the spot we're calling from.
One last idea is to have a family photo for the kids to keep. I feel like if they see a photo of us together, it will reaffirm the fact that we are a family, and we are coming back.
My heart goes back and forth between being excited about the trip, to sick thinking about leaving the kids.....bleh.
Beyond all my fears, I guess, is the hope that this experience will be a good one for Caleb and the girls. That they can learn to rely on each other more, to understand each other more, and for them to practice a level of independence that cannot be offered when they are always with Adam and I.
It will good, that's what I am telling myself. Everything will be fine, the kids will have a great time, Adam and I will have a great time, and this will be good! This will be good...
8/3/2015 09:50:59 am
Enjoy your trip!!! How exciting!! I will be thinking of you and praying that it l goes well for Caleb and the girls!
8/4/2015 08:34:37 am
An amazing opportunity for you and Adam - and for Caleb! What better way to understand a situation than to experience it first hand. He is a remarkable kid and I have all the faith in the world that he will be more than fine. xoxo can't wait to see your pics ❤️
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Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
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