The title of this post alone scares the crap out of me. Although I'm excited to have the opportunity to go see my sister and the new little bundle of joy, (which is finally a girl, I might add) I'm terrified of what that means for Jacob. I contemplated leaving him at home and only taking Caleb. Although, for the last year Jacob's been begging me to go see his cousins, Gabe and Zane. He would never forgive me if I left him at home but took Caleb. Just the thought of leaving him behind is simply not an option anymore.
I've been trying to cross every "t" and dot every "i" to make sure that I prepare him for the trip. Does this mean that the trip will be a success? Yes, if success means we will fly there and fly back. No, if success means that we'll travel without meltdowns, hindrances and lots of tears. However, there are lots of things that I can do to help with his anxiety and frustrations with the process of flying.
The first thing that I did was I bought a shirt for him that says "Sweet, Funny, Smart, Autistic." Then, I bought one for me that says "Keep Calm I'm an Autism Mom." Did I buy the shirt so that people would feel sorry for us, NO!! I bought the shirts because of all the sweet onlookers, with their precious judgement's, that watch when Jacob melts down. I wanted to buy a shirt that said "Autism: smiles are welcome, parenting advice is not." I decided though that I wanted to ease people's minds, not immediately offend them. Let's just face it, it's embarrassing when your typical child acts out in public and people stare. Try taking your special needs kid out in public, who by the way, can have overwhelming outbursts at things that you would never think of, in moments that you would never see coming. These kids aren't trying to act bad, they simply do not know how to process their fear, anxiety, apprehensiveness or frustration. Then add on top of that, that they refuse to be hugged or comforted...sounds fun, huh? Then I get to deal with all the stares and judgement's from people who are most likely nice people, but to me they are enemies, satanist, anti-Christs...OK maybe I went a little too far with that one, but, you get the point!!
The next thing that I decided to do was write him, what is called, a Social Story. This is a home made story that I typed out on the computer and added real pictures to. The story starts off telling about how we have to drive to the airport, talks in detail about security, lines, sounds & airport procedures. All these things have pictures to go with them so that he will no exactly what to expect. Letting him know in advance what will happen, helps with his anxiety because he can remind himself of the book and remember that, for instance, "Metal detectors keep us safe, they are not scary." The last picture in the book is a picture of his cousins. That way if he get's overwhelmed we can look at their picture and remember why we are doing what we're doing.
The next thing that I'm going to do is make him a check list of all the things we have to accomplish that day. Every time he gets to check something off his list, he will get a reward. Most likely the rewards will be white chocolate covered pretzels...YUM!!! I might make me a checklist so I can eat them too! This will help him visually see how many steps we have completed and how many more we have to go. Plus, it will keep him thinking about his reward when we come to something that may cause fear for him.
Before we leave, I'm going to let him watch some video's on YouTube about airplanes and we'll find some flight noise simulator's to help him listen to what type of sounds the plane makes. That way he will be familiar with them and hopefully won't be fearful of them in real life.
The last and most important thing that I've done is make sure that we have lots of electronics on the plane. He will be able to swap out between the tablet, DVD player and old cell phones. Now I just have to pray that the electronics don't die before we land.
Lots of patience, prayers and perseverance is what's going to get us through this trip. When I began to tell my mom all the things that I had planned for preparing Jacob, she said "You sure are smart!" I couldn't help but bust out laughing because that's the last thing that I thought of myself. My response was "I'm not smart, I'm fearful." I've decided to go through life experiencing everything that we can experience, even if that means it being hard and un-fun at moments. The more that Jacob experiences the better off he is and that makes me one happy Mama!!