Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Essay: The Difficult Transition from Fun Activities

Image: My guy was a little tentative in the cold water of Lake Michigan, but he did enjoy the morning on the beach in Traverse City, Michigan. He also got to swim in a hotel pool, hike a little bit, and climb a sand dune during our two-day vacation.

Oh, the fun my ten-year-old son has been having. Last week we went on vacation to Traverse City, a popular destination in Northwestern Michigan. This week he is at a camp for people with special needs. I will pick him up on Friday and while I'll be glad to have him back, I'm not sure I'm looking forward to the nearly two-hour-drive home.

My husband had the relatively easier job (aside from having to wait until I faxed him prescriptions) of delivering him to camp. The elder Lorenzen guy said that our son had a grin almost all the way there. It's his fourth or fifth year at the Fowler Center, so he knew exactly what to expect. It's a week of being outside and doing activities he loves such as swimming.

So yeah. The transition from home to camp was easy enough for him to handle. The transition from camp to home? I'm holding my breath and hoping for the best. Am a little worried because he had a meltdown on his way home from Traverse City last week. He wanted to do something that was impossible on the way home, and would not let the idea go. He did calm down by the time we arrived home, but we were all on edge by the time he did. Meltdowns in the close quarters of a vehicle can be difficult.

The type of meltdown he usually has in rooted in control issues. When he can't control something such as leaving camp, he tries to control something else such as what kind of rest break we take on the way home. It can be a miserable situation for all parties. Sigh.

My husband and I have a few ideas of how to prevent an impending meltdown, though I'm not sure they will work. One idea is for me to take a recording from his dad reminding our son to "not give mom a hard time." Another is a social story or a simple verbal reminder for him to be good. Rewards are probably not a good thing to offer, because, in this case, he'll try to control what reward he'll be given.

So, I feel guilty about it, but have to admit I'm not looking forward to Friday and being alone in a van with a potentially unhappy son. On the bright side, I'm grateful he can transition to being at camp and that I don't really have to worry about getting a phone call about behavior problems, a type of call that I occasionally receive from his school.

Also, anticipating downfalls such as a meltdown helps a bit. It's better to anticipate one than to field one that comes out of nowhere. However, if you suspect I'm trying to convince myself that I'll manage things just fine on Friday, you are correct. My son and I usually get through those moments even if it's just a matter of "muddling through." It's just not easy....


Saja said...

Hi Julie,

Is there something you can give him that he does have control over? That sounds like the best way to defuse meltdown, if that's the trigger. (Good for you for seeing that, and not just thinking he's being manipulative or whiny or a thousand other things. He's really not....he's just trying to keep his brain from exploding in chaos.) Can you let him choose the kind of rest break you take on the way home? Or when you take the break? Or something about the trip? Just thinking out loud.

Transitions from enjoyable things to not-so-enjoyable things are very hard (even at forty-two). What helps me is to know very concretely in advance what's going to happen and when (specific time). That way I can work my way into the new situation. It takes some time to get the autistic brain to cohere on a new isn't so much willful refusal to change as inability. Very specific, very concrete plans, steps, and information help.

In addition to concrete information about the whens, wheres, and whats of the trip home, maybe having a specific, definite, concrete plan for something he likes when you arrive home will also help.

Of course, I'm being anything BUT specific here....but I hope it gives you some ideas you can work with.

Saja (autistic adult)

Elissa said...

I feel for you, it's never easy knowing that you're heading into a potentially difficult situation.

And when life has been hectic anyway it just makes it all the harder.

Hang in there... be thinking of you! xx

Casdok said...

Hope your prevention ideas helped. Transitions can be so hard.
Hope camp went well too :)

Julie L. said...

Saja, a concrete plan for the trip helped! Please read updated post. : ) Should have had something fun ready for when he came home though because he struggled a little.

Elissa and Casok: Thanks!