Do you remember as a child having to write the obligatory essay each fall outlining how you spent your summer vacation? No? Really? Well in all honesty, neither do I. But, over the next few days I will make an attempt, the highlights (or lowlights, depending upon your perspective), the Cliff Notes version of how we spent the last three months, autism style.
Most kids count the days until summer break. They look forward to lazy mornings, unstructured time and trips to new places. But for David, who craves structure and routine, who thrives on the familiar and repetitive, sometimes “vacation” can send him into a tailspin.
So, this year I actually spent time working to make a smoother transition for David. I had drafted a visual schedule and rewards chart, loaded with summer fun. I found activities that I thought he would enjoy and took the time to introduce him to them ahead of time. In fact, I now read back to my very last post, where I was bragging about finding the rainbow park, cheap and highly motivating entertainment for David.
Well, my summer fantasy came crashing down the stairs with David one Friday afternoon. Or perhaps more accurately, David came tumbling down a staircase, taking my summer plans (oh, and incidentally my laptop computer complete with the unprinted visual schedules and rewards chart) with him.
As the physician’s assistant wound the protective gauze around David’s broken arm that day in preparation for a cast, I stood mentally checking water activities off of David’s summer list. Oh, and helping my husband to hold him down because David had decided, at that moment, he was not too fond of casts and would really rather take a pass. I said a silent goodbye to the rainbow park, the swimming pool, the sprinklers and bath time for David.
I had imagined, (naively, I know) a summer filled with fun and frivolity, but still packed with those teaching moments that would enable David to surpass his peers academically--a little private joke that might be obvious only to me and to the handful of people who can understand what he is saying most of the time. Don’t get me wrong--even without our most highly motivating category of summer activities, David did make excellent progress over the summer which was described by his teacher as night and day difference from last year. But, as is so often the case, I seem to have learned plenty of lessons, as well, which I have outlined below.
David’s appreciation for the color red apparently extends only to apparel.
David does not consider a cast to be an apparel item.
David is a resourceful boy and if thwarted (say, for example, in preventing a cast from being applied to his arm) he will move quickly to plan B, which may include but not be limited to trying to crack it open on the floor or get it wet in the sink before even leaving the exam room.
I can be equally resourceful and quickly realize that the favored black splint covering the hated red cast might just do the trick, although make the removal of shirts somewhat difficult.
David is able to generalize his hatred of X-ray machines to different machines in varying facilities around the city.
If I am the person guarding the door of the X-ray room, it is important to count the number of exits prior to the beginning of the procedure.
David is fast.
I am not as fast as David.
Sometimes those handicapped accessible, automatic doors serve a valuable purpose in distracting a sprinting child just long enough for an exercise-challenged mother to catch him at the front doors of the outpatient clinic.
Always buy Dell’s extended computer warranty with hazard coverage.
Yes, the boys enjoyed the break from school and I had a somewhat unintentional break from writing, but I am glad to be back to our schedule, our routine. Let my vacation begin.