Monday, January 31, 2011

A Turtle-phobic Boy Visits the Honolulu zoo

Photo: C1 was more than happy to lead the way on our exodus from the Honolulu zoo. The walk back to our hotel was less stressful than our actual outing to visit the zoo. Read on for more.

Photo: Two tortoises can be seen here in the midst of their huge habitat at the Honolulu zoo. The reptiles might have been relatively far away, but they still terrified my son with ASD. My oldest son was more than happy to leave the zoo, and I'm sure this is why.

Sometimes there is just no rationalizing with fear. My twelve-year-old son is scared, no absolutely terrified, of turtles and tortoises. The best explanation that he can give is that their shells scare him. I'm not sure why exactly and he cannot explain. I guess maybe it is because they poke their heads in and out in a unpredictable manner. He doesn't even want to look at them. We have explained that the shells are like helmets that people use, and are met to protect the animals. Our guy understands this to a degree, but still remains terrified of them.

The good news, I suppose, is that we don't encounter turtles and tortoises very often. The bad news is that because we don't face the issue all that often, my son's fear of turtles isn't high on our long list of concerns. Unfortunately I had forgotten all about this phobia before we visited the Honolulu zoo, but it did not take long for it to become an sudden (and temporary) priority. In short, this concern basically bit us in the butt. (All I can say is that the "bite" didn't leave marks.)

If I had to do it all over again, I would have visited the website to get a look at the map to see how the facility was laid out. If I had done that, it would have become apparent that we would have to be very careful with our route because the zoo's rather large tortoise exhibit was right in the middle of the park. It would not have been easy to dodge the tortoises, but it would not have been impossible either.

Of course we ended up walking right by the where the tortoises are kept, and of course my son noticed the reptiles immediately. I guess we can be glad he didn't have a huge meltdown. Instead, all it took was for my son to close his eyes and allow himself to be led past the tortoises as well as the turtles that were located in another part of the park.

In the end, the trip was a little bit stressful, but not ruined by the unexpected hazard. We saw plenty of animals that C1 wasn't afraid of. He liked the spider monkeys and he braved going into the reptile/amphibian house so that he could see his favorite animal...a frog.

As a result of this trip, I did learn a very valuable lesson. Next time we visit a zoo or aquarium we haven't gone to before, I will make sure to scout for tortoises and turtles ahead of time! This might involve calling the facility in question, because unlike tortoises, turtles aren't always marked on online maps. I have noted that sometimes they are added into informal displays like fish ponds...

So yes, our trip to Hawaii was filled with ups and downs. Thankfully, this episode was just a small valley, which was relatively easy to navigate.

Happy note: Our youngest boy loved the zoo, and was delighted to find a shark tooth necklace at the zoo's gift shop. It was really affordable. He and the necklace have pretty much been inseparable since then. :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Trip, but not Exactly a Vacation

Photo: A picture I took of the lagoon and buildings that are part of the Hawaiian Hilton Village where we stayed.

Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted to go to Hawaii. I've always heard of how beautiful it is, so when my husband decided to go to a conference in Honolulu and asked if I wanted to go too I didn't hesitate. In the Midwest it is far more rare than in the Pacific Northwest to find someone who has visited Hawaii because it is a lot more expensive to fly from Michigan than it is from Washington.

Also, moving to the state of Washington ten months ago from Michigan cut our flight time to the islands by a little more than half. It takes about six hours to fly from Washington to the islands of Hawaii. Also, we were delighted when an airline started offering direct flights from a regional airport in our new home town to Hawaii just in time for us to fly back (more on that later.)

As far as anticipating the trip, my husband and I were excited about starting the new year (Jan 3-8) in the Aloha state, but also apprehensive. (Our two boys, however, were just plain excited.) We had never taken our sons, including the oldest who has autism, on a multi-day trip that required air travel to and from our destination. We worried a little about making it through airport security. We fretted about meltdowns in public, and wondered if we would regret attempting to go.
Giving into our fear however would have meant not experiencing some of the best of what life has to offer...warm sunshine, beautiful scenery and the rich culture and history of the islands. So we prepared the best we could. We let the school system know we were pulling the boys for a week to go on on trip. I took my son to his psychiatrist the week before we went. The doctor gave me a note written on a prescription pad that explained my son had Autism Spectrum Disorder. He also wrote a prescription for a sedative to use during the plane ride, but we decided to not use it.

My husband planned a rich variety of outings for us, and booked us in a room where his conference was being held. Fortunately, the hotel was located on a beach and had several swim pools, a must for most families with children. So, I packed swim suits, sun lotion and even after sun lotion in case one of us became sunburned. We also did our best to communicate our expectations of behavior to our son.

Fortunately, we were able to go on all the outings my husband planned, but it wasn't easy. Every day had its challenges when it came to our twelve year old boy. We couldn't relax as the word vacation implies. But we did our best to enjoy our trip. We had our fun moments, but we also faced enormous challenges that we could have never anticipated. So yeah, I have some stories, which I'll share. All I'll write now is if I had of known exactly what was going to happen during our trip, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to have gone.

That said, Hawaii lived up to my expectations. There is no place quite like it, and I'm so happy that I was able to fulfill a childhood dream and that my husband and I were able to take our children on a trip they are likely to remember for the rest of their lives. Hawaii is beautiful and we were able to enjoy five days of warm sunshine during the first full week of January...a novelty for this family who hails from the Midwest. Please stay tuned for more on our trip later.