Yesterday my friend, Nancy, asked me if Aaron and I would like to come up to her uncle’s farm. She knows that I am fascinated by big Kansas farms, and she thought that Aaron would also enjoy seeing the large machinery and the dairy cows. Now, I know Aaron, and while I felt like he might want to see the farm and the cows, I also knew that he might balk at this change to his daily routine. I have told you that Aaron loves daily routine, right? I thought so.
Nancy said that she would be at the farm today, Thursday, so that would be a good time for Aaron and me to go. Therefore, I told Aaron about the invitation last night so that he would have time to process the information. As I expected, he had some questions about it and wasn’t exactly hopping up and down with excitement. I knew what he was thinking, but I decided to just leave him with the proposal and let him think about it. He later said that he would go, but still he wasn’t thrilled.
This morning, Aaron got up early and came down to the kitchen. As we talked, I once again mentioned our trip to the farm. And once again I saw that Aaron was less than excited. Finally he said, “So when I come home from Paradigm, we’ll go to the farm?” I told him that we would. “How long will we be there?” he asked. I told him that it wouldn’t be terribly long…….and I knew where this was going. “So when I get home from the farm, will I have time to play the computer?” I told him that he would. He was silent for a minute as he thought through this change in his day.
He continued, “But we have to watch Wheel of Fortune.” I admitted that I wasn’t positive we would be home but that we could tape it. “Then after Wheel of Fortune can I get on the computer?” he asked. I assured him that he would have time for his computer. He was still unsettled, and it wasn’t long before he was asking these same questions all over again. I finally stopped him and just asked him if he really wanted to go to the farm or not……….and he admitted that he did not. He felt bad but I assured him that it was all right, and that perhaps another day would work better, like a Saturday.
You see, when Aaron comes home from his day group, he first of all talks to me and fills me in on his day. Then he changes into his pajamas, plays a computer game, and relaxes his busy mind. Around 6:28, he thumps loudly down the stairs so that we can watch Wheel of Fortune. After Wheel of Fortune, he might stay downstairs and watch something that has been recorded……….or talk to Gary and me awhile……..and pet Jackson…………..and then head back upstairs to his computer. Sometimes he and I will play a game later in the evening, and sometimes we don’t……..but he always knows that this is an option. If we run to a store like Wal-Mart or Dillon’s, or go to Great Clips for a haircut, then he is excited.
Do you see any room in this schedule for a trip to a farm? Well, neither did Aaron. It just wasn’t working out in his mind, no matter how hard he tried. I could see that instead of anticipating the fun farm trip, he was becoming agitated over it instead. And if I forced the issue, he would become angry and then no one would have fun.
It wasn’t long after this conversation that Aaron was growing restless. He was up early and there was a long stretch of morning ahead of him. He had showered and had eaten and had drunk his coffee. I suggested that he go out in the mulch, but he didn’t want to for some reason. Then I told him that he could watch Animal Planet. He enjoys looking at that show when he clips out my coupons on Sundays.
As soon as I had made the suggestion, Aaron said, “I only watch Animal Planet on Sundays when I’m doing the coupons.”
“So you absolutely won’t watch Animal Planet this morning?” I queried hopefully.
“No,” he flatly answered.
And there it is………life with autism. Sometimes Aaron is flexible, but many times he is not. This morning he was not. And it’s OK, really. If he was allergic to dairy foods, then I would not have let him pour regular milk on his cereal that he had just eaten. If he was diabetic, then I would not have let him eat the Honey Nut Cheerios that filled his breakfast bowl.
But Aaron is autistic, and therefore I cannot expect him to easily adjust to changes in his routine. This means that I am often the one doing the adjusting as I adjust my expectations, my demands, my desires, and all too often my attitude. When he knew that I wasn’t going to push the farm trip on him today……or Animal Planet……..he was relaxed and happy. The story would have been quite different if I had reacted angrily. And if I had exhibited even a hint of ridicule in my look or my voice, you can bet he would have sensed it, and he would have been hurt and defensive.
So today Aaron came home from Paradigm, where he found me on the phone with my good friend from North Carolina. He leaned down in my face and asked if I would come to his room when I hung up. I did just that, and he told me about his day. He had already changed into his pajamas. Later, he thumped down the stairs……and we watched Wheel of Fortune while he ate popcorn……….with his blue bowl there, of course, in case there were crumbs.
|See his blue bowl? HaHa!|
Our evening is going the way that Aaron likes and he is happy. Maybe we’ll visit the farm on an upcoming Saturday……a day that gives Aaron the freedom to be more flexible. As for Animal Planet, Sunday is coming! Provided there are coupons to cut…….because remember that Animal Planet is only for coupon cutting sessions.
I’m learning, Aaron, I’m learning.