The Autism Two-Step

Gary and I are planning a trip to Houston next month.  We’ll stay with our daughter and son-in-law (Kyle and Andrea), and then get to see our other son (Andrew) who will be there for an NHRA race. 

Happy, happy fun times are ahead!  YAY, YAY!!

Wait.  I forgot to mention that we plan to take Aaron. 

Angry, angry times are ahead!  YUCK, YUCK!

That was Aaron speaking.

As many of you know, getting Aaron to travel happily is a stretch.  We want to include him for the obvious reasons, especially the fact that he IS family and should be a part of family times. 

We’ve been making the hard sell and thought we were well on our way to traveling success.  But yesterday morning…

Aaron stood behind me early as I sat at my quiet time desk. 

“I am NOT going to Andrea’s!!” he angrily spoke.

First words out of his mouth did not bode well.

None of my soft words softened him at all. 

I ended up on our patio, coffee in hand, where Aaron soon found me and exposited further on the reasons that he will NOT make this fun, fun trip.

I escaped in the house for a few minutes.  When I looked out at the patio, Aaron was gone.  I didn’t see him anywhere.  Where could he have gone?!

Soon I saw him, across the yard sitting all dejected on our bench.  Sorry for the grainy picture.

He soon moved to the front porch, sadness all over his posture and face. 

When he rejoined me on the patio, he was crying.  When Aaron cries, he is truly and deeply upset. 

“I don’t want to leave this house!” he exclaimed, as if we were forcing him out forever instead of just taking a trip.

But to Aaron, home and the familiarity it brings is of upmost importance to him.  It’s a huge stretch to ask him to go someplace else and just “be happy.”

Aaron reacts to all the stimulation outside of himself in a far greater way than you and I do.  A long trip, another house, an unfamiliar bed, more people around, a different bathroom…just everything about traveling is huge and very uncomfortable to him. 

And if Aaron is uncomfortable, then everyone within range of his voice will be most uncomfortable, too.

It’s so easy to say he should just go and have a good time.

SO, SO hard for Aaron to do that very thing, starting with the “just go.”

Later in the morning, like a light went on, Aaron calmed down and became happy.  It wasn’t because finally, he came to his senses!

It was because he remembered the Indonesian submarine that sank.  Really.  Not that the sinking and all the death makes him happy, but all the facts of that incident have filled his fact-loving cup to the brim.

He talked about the submarine incessantly on Sunday.  He talked about it until the moment he turned his light off that night and went to sleep.  So yesterday morning, when he paused from his travel grief long enough to think of something else, his mind went back to the submarine that had so consumed him yesterday.

Ahhhhh, a subject that pleased him, odd as that sounds! 

Autistic persons are often brought back to their comfort zones by slipping into whatever groove is safe to them and meets their unusual interests.  As strange as it seems to us, Aaron was able to lay aside his angst about our upcoming trip by finding that groove, which on this day was the sunken submarine…

And then Trandoshians…clones…launch codes…Republic Assault Ship…Wookies…

It’s just the most fascinating and often frustrating thing!

Yet Gary and I must lay aside our desire to lecture as we slip with Aaron into his groove, talk about the very unique subjects that permeate his mind, and be ready for the next onslaught of travel anger.

It’s a delicate dance that we know all too well, accompanied by the music of Aaron’s world.  The band isn’t always in tune, at least not to us, but Gary and I had best just dance along and let Aaron lead.

It’s the Texas Two-Step!  Except for us it’s two steps forward…on a good day…and at least one step back.  Often more.

Last night, as Aaron still processed all things travel related, his face lit up.

“MOM!!  Can Kyle tell me all about the submarine?  Because if he can then I’ll go to Houston!”

So Kyle, who has a degree in maritime studies but has never worked on a submarine, has been given an assignment for which to prep before we come.  And his dad, Kent…who served in the Navy on a sub…will no doubt be invaluable.  Andrea said we should just have Kent waiting in the driveway when we pull in.  😊  😊

It’s good that we can all laugh. 

All of us except Aaron, who takes every bit of this very seriously. 

Time for me to get our day going.  Gary and I are taking Aaron to the zoo, which is close and does not require travel but also does not…to my knowledge…have a submarine.  Too bad!

Looks like it will be a beautiful day for a dance. 

Author: Patty hesaidwhatks

I'm Patty and I write about our adult son who has Epilepsy and Autism, who still lives with my husband and me, and who is a package full of many surprises and joys and challenges and TALK! Lots of talking, which creates laughter and some other reactions as well. I also write about how God shows Himself to me in everyday life.

21 thoughts on “The Autism Two-Step”

  1. This must be so difficult for everyone, but I’m glad it sounds like it’s working out. Traveling is pretty stressful, for anyone, and I admire that you don’t give up! Though it got a rough start, I believe you all can have a lot of fun in Houston 🙂 I lived there and one of the best things is honestly the food! The TexMex/Mexican food is the best 😍

    There’s also a naval museum in Galveston. Just throwing it out there. Not sure if they are open (because of the pandemic) but I’m pretty sure they have submarines.

    I hope Aaron and everyone have a great time at the zoo! God bless 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, most definitely relate here. It’s great when a groove is found. My kids have their go-to’s as well. I hope Aaron gets to discuss submarines to his heart’s content. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love this Patty. I will eagerly wait for pictures and posts of your trip. As I read it was interesting to hear how you struggle with the two contradictory certainties that always reside in your mind about Aaron. On the one hand his comfort zone is well circumscribed at home, his day program and comfortable surroundings (especially his beloved restaurants). On the other hand he is a member of the whole family and deserves to be included in family activities. The latter is such a simple and natural thought but when you said it it was like the first time I had given it any thought. I don’t know why this resonated with me so much. It opened my eyes further as to the dichotomous situations that you deal with daily. It’s funny because it is so obvious and yet not obvious. I know I am going on and on but this blog made me think a lot. Thank heavens you are blessed with Andrea, Kyle, his parents and Andrew who will be so good with Aaron in Texas

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, Barbara, one of Aaron’s comments when he gets angry is that we love Andrea…or Kyle…or Andrew more than we love him. Yet when we want to include him in our family trip and time together, all his talk of love is thrown out the window and doesn’t matter anymore. That’s because he wants us to show love for him by letting him monopolize our phone conversations with the kids but NOT to make him leave his comfort zone and take a trip. It’s so classic autism. I’m sure as a psychiatrist you saw this all the time, this absolute necessity to control his environment. I remember how bad we felt about leaving him out of Andrea’s wedding but can you imagine how he would have ruined the entire day? It would have been so awful! It was Andrea and Kyle’s day, not Aaron’s – and was just another example of the very difficult decisions that parents of autistic children are forced to make. So wait – is my answer longer than your comment? HaHa! Love you, Cuz!


      1. Yeah Patty I think you out talked me. That’s the nature of the beast isn’t it when trying to figure out how to deal with autism? Love you!


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