Autism & Yesterday
I don't mean yesterday as in the song by the Beatles, but our actual day yesterday.
I had a whole other post written, but I had to talk about yesterday!
Let me tell you about it...
We had planned to go to the beach for the entire day, but when we woke up it was semi-cloudy, but more than that, it was really cool out! :( So, as I packed up lunches and snacks, Adam surfed the web looking for indoor things to do, or as least something that didn't involve as much water as the beach!
Well, anything indoors costs a lot of moo-la, so we weren't sure what to do.
Caleb was hearing our conversations, and was looking concerned because we had already said the day before that we were going to the beach.
Finally, after trying to find a new place to go, we just decided on 2 familiar (and free!) places to go. We gave the kids the choice in the end: Madoc park and splash pad, or Peterborough zoo and splash pad?
They all picked the zoo.
So, off we went, we got to the zoo at a good time and (with our sweaters on!), headed into the zoo. You have to walk past the splash pad when going into the Peterborough (Riverside) Zoo, and usually Caleb will start right away with "Caleb needs to go to splash pad!!!", but he walked in happily, and didn't even mention the splash pad. My husband and I looked at each other like, "oh, wow!".
The day went by really well. Caleb (and the girls) got along, they were considerate of other people, and were being good listeners.
At the zoo there is a little train you can ride, but when we got to the train the line was looooong (2 train rides long, and each ride is 10 minutes, so we knew we would be waiting a while). But, I told Caleb, "we are going to have to wait our turn, there are a lot of people. Would you like a snack?" Caleb replies..."Um, Caleb will like to ride the train?" (it was a question). I repeated, "Yup, we'll ride the train, we just need to wait first". He looked past me at the long line and said, "Caleb will have a snack". Again, my husband and I looked at each other like, "Whaaaaa?".
We were seeing how far Caleb has come in a place that had once been a semi-nightmare to take him to!
He used to run away, try to climb into the animal enclosures, have a major meltdown because we weren't doing the splash pad first, he would scream and be upset at every seagull we would see, he would be upset if we couldn't see every animal in it's enclosure (the animals didn't get the memo that autistic kids expect to see every animal that the sign by the enclosure says should be there!). He was honestly doing so amazing. Not even just for a special needs kid, he was doing amazing for a typical kid!!!
As we were nearing the end of seeing the animals, Caleb kept saying (with increasing anxiety), "Caleb will see the parrots!". I had noticed an enclosure next to the spider monkeys that had a sign saying there was a parrot, but the enclosure looked empty, so I had assumed it was an old sign. But we had seen a fake parrot on the little train ride, so I thought maybe Caleb was talking about that, so I kept saying to him, "we saw the pretend parrot on the train ride, remember?", and he would say, "Caleb will see the real parrots!". Anyway, he calmed down about it, and we back-tracked a little to see some of our favourite animals (including the spider monkeys). As we were walking away from the monkey enclosure, we heard this terrible noise behind us, like a cat being run over! Caleb's face lights up and he screams, "It's a paaarrrrrot!!!!!".
Someone close by to the enclosure we had just walked away from says, "Yup, it's right there". And there it was; a beautiful, full of colour parrot! We had missed it twice, but at the last minute it's crazy screech got our attention. I look at my husband (again), with a "what the heck?" look. I said to Caleb, "You are so smart...you were right about the parrot, thank you for not getting upset with me for not believing there was a real parrot".
He didn't care about my apology, he was enraptured with the parrot, who said, "hello", which thrilled Caleb to his core!
Adam and the girls left Caleb and I at the parrot while they were going to go to the car to get bathing suits and towels for the splash pad. A while later, they came back with no bag of splash pad stuff, and Adam tells me, "I asked the girls if they would rather the splash pad or the park (which is really 4 separate huge and fun parks), and they choose the parks. He had asked them to make the choice because it was getting late (and more chilly), and we were't sure we could do both the parks and splash pad as we were all getting hungry and tired.
So, we said goodbye to the parrot, and walked towards the park. Caleb was very happy at the park (the last time I let him play at the park a few years ago he got so many stink eyes from more kids and adults than I care to recall), and was enjoying himself. Until I said, "o.k, 5 more minutes than we're going in our car".
Caleb came over to us with tears welling in his eyes, and said, "Caleb will go to the splash pad...?". Adam explained that he girls had decided that we would do the park instead, and Caleb just walked away, going back to the park.
A few seconds later I can see Caleb sitting at the bottom of a slide, biting his lip, trying so hard not to cry. So, we call him over, and he says, "Caleb is so very wants to go to the splash pad...", and he starts crying.
For the millionth time that day, Adam and I look at each other knowing what this situation would have looked like even last summer. A full-on meltdown, screaming and flailing for lack of understanding that plans can change. He was being so sweet though, trying his best to understand the situation.
So, Adam asks the girls, "Caleb really wants to go to the splash pad, can we go there now that we've played at the park?. The girls (of course) had no problem going to the splash pad, and when Caleb saw them saying yes, his little face just lit up, and he wiped away his tears, and said, "Caleb is so very going to the splash pad!!!"
So, we hit-up the splash pad which was empty by this point. It was 6:30pm, getting a lot cooler, but the kids (and especially Caleb) had so much fun. It was good to see him enjoying it so much, knowing how hard he had controlled himself when he thought he wasn't going to have a chance to go.
So, we finished up at the zoo, telling the kids how pleased we were with them for being so well behaved.
Now we just needed a place to eat our picnic dinner. We wanted a change of scenery from the zoo, so Adam decided it would be nice to drive down to the waterfront for a picnic.
Well, we drive downtown, and there are a ton of cars, people walking around, there is clearly something going on. So, we find a parking spot, grab our food, and head to the waterfront. As we get closer (walking in a large group of people), we ask someone, "what's going on?". He tells us that Colin James is there tonight for one of Peterborough free summer concerts.
Um, what? We were so excited! We walked towards the stage, and picked a spot to sit (we looked a little strange because everyone had brought chairs, and we were sitting in the grass among them!), but we were happy! They were handing out free juice boxes, which added to the fun for the kids (who never get juice boxes!), and we settled in for whatever amount of time we thought we could last. The kids were getting tired (so was I!), we were all pretty dang cold, and we just thought we would stay open to the idea that we might have to leave quickly if the kids suddenly became that coo-coo crazy crying tired that kids are so good at!
The show started at 8pm, there was 12,000 in attendance, and we stayed until the end at 10pm-ish! Oh man, the kids danced, Caleb sang along to some of the songs he knew from our iTunes playlists, and everyone forgot how cold they were!
I honestly couldn't believe the day we had, Especially from Caleb's point of view!
It was literally a day of, "I dunno, whadda you wanna do?", and compromise. The crazy loud concert at the end of the day, Caleb seeing people eat popcorn (and saying every 10 minutes, "Caleb will eat popcorn?", and me saying, "Um, nope"), but getting over it and enjoying himself!
We thought, what a great day, look how amazing we are!....But, as is generally the case when you start to pat yourself on the back, something goes really wrong!
We stand up to go, and Adam reaches into his pocket for our car key (which, by the way, is not on a key chain because it's one of those automatic lock thingies, but the part where you can attach it to a key chain is broken, so it's just a lonely key with the black top), and it's gone! GONE! There was a hole in his pocket!!! The other people at the concert had quickly packed up and left, so we were basically alone, in a dark field, with no flashlight, and no key!!!
We stayed calm, the kids and I stopped to pray that God would help us find our key...or at least someone who would give us money for a hotel because both mine and Adam's wallets were in our van!
The kids (and especially Caleb) kept their cool, even though they were very tired, now realizing they were cold, and starting to understand that without the key, we were stuck.
Adam re-traced his steps from his last trip to the van to get our camera (because remember we thought we were going to just have a picnic and ended up at a free concert!!!), and the kids and I held hands in a line and "dragged" the field looking for the key.
A police officer saw us, and came over to help (with her flashlight!), and we continued our search. By 11pm, there is still no key, and I have literally been looking at the ground with the kids for an hour. Suddenly, someone says, "someone found a key!". I look up and realize there are at least 7 police officers with their flashlights looking for the key with us (I literally didn't know they were there!), and one of them says again, "She says, someone found a key", pointing at an event staff member. And there standing with an officer is an event staff member who is waiting to take us backstage where they have the key. We tried not to get our hopes up, incase it's not our key, but we're feeling excited about going behind the stage to the trailer/musician area!
So, we go backstage where there is some conversation about who took our key where, but as we stood there we see the guitarist and keyboardist from the band, who smiled at us (we hid how excited we were). Caleb goes right up to the keyboardist and says, "the police have our van key!", and the keyboardist just laughs a little at him.
Not only had Caleb patiently wandered through a field in the dark in the cold (kindly reminding us how hungry he was), but he was really was absorbing and understanding what was happening (well, minus talking to a stranger who happened to be in Colin James' band!). He had stayed calm, had been helpful, and had a crazy amazing day!
Seriously, what a day! What a day!!!
Caleb showed us his resilience, his ability to adapt and change, and his improvements in communication. He showed us how he can change based on other people in his family, how he can go to a loud, overly crowded gathering and stay sane, and how he can go with the flow when our key goes missing and we're wandering (and shivering) through a field looking for it!
Special needs kids or not, moments in raising kids can feel like they will last forever. The terrible two's, potty training, sleeping through the night. These things change, they don't stay the same forever.
The same is true for kids with special needs. It may seem hopeless, but they are changing, growing, improving. Keep working on them, but loving them for who they are & where they are.
7/17/2014 04:22:28 am
This is a great story. Thank you for sharing and please let me know next time you head to the zoo. We've only been there once, but Joel talks about it a lot! It is on my list of places to go before the summer is over!
7/17/2014 09:20:19 am
Hey, glad you liked the tale of our day! I'm not sure we'll go back again this summer, but we might, and if/when we do I will let you know! :)
7/17/2014 11:37:56 am
What an amazing day for amazing people!
7/17/2014 11:54:41 am
Wow! WHAT-A-DAY is so right! So proud of your amazing kiddos :)
7/28/2014 03:44:41 am
OH MY GOODNESS!!!
oh my goodness! I just stumbled on this blog (via the Kitkat cookie recipe post!) and might have to stick around!! I LOVE Peterborough!!! I miss that zoo!!! (I went to uni there many years ago and that city stole my heart!)(even though I'm back living in the country!)
8/4/2014 01:23:44 am
We love Peterborough too, it really is a charming city! We don't get there as often as we did when we were living in Bancroft, but we make sure to head there at least once every summer. You should go there before the summer is through!!!
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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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