Can we ever have too many activities to keep our autistic children occupied? I AM OF THE BELIEF THAT THE ANSWER IS UNEQUIVOCALLY, NO~
I got this advice when in Oregon with Greg about 24 years ago. Greg was homesick and fussy at the time. "Martha, if he is going to be miserable anyway, you might as well have a miserable kid while you are trying to do something happy for yourself." With that in mind, I set up my day around looking at waterfalls and seeing other amazing sights of Oregon.
So today, I picked Greg up at his group home at noon and came back to the old house to let him watch videos on the I Pad. At two, we headed to our adventure in Harrisburg, PA. Fort Hunter, historic park on the Susquehanna River, offered us something new to do. I'd never been there, and, so, was pleasantly surprised. Their mansion had an admittance fee, but the train set-up, the Christmas tree decorating and the holiday greenery costumes were all free! That is always a good thing when you don't know how long your child will last. As it turned out, this day, the God of all gods, our holiday God, smiled upon our visit, and Greg was quite mature and happy. We studied the intricacies of the train village, especially delighting in the rides which were set up within the train's village. Complete with a Ferris wheel, a carousel, a tilt-a-whirl and a unique double Ferris wheel that reminded us of Hershey Park, we were enthralled. Greg lasted a good ten minutes until he said, "Ready to go."
We moved on down the path (after picking up the last bag of cookies in exchange for a small donation) and checked out the trees. Food always warms the heart of my particular child. I asked Greg to pick a tree for a raffle, and he stood by the white, silver and blue, somewhat commercial-looking masterpiece. It wouldn't have been my choice for a raffle win, but I was ecstatic that he made a choice. The other trees were decorated with more natural goodies, one with spindles of ribbon and sheep with wool from 100 years ago and another with all uniquely crafty decorations like birds and such. A delighted Greg dropped our raffle ticket in the box in front of the glitzier tree. (I'm always surprised when Greg "gets it"...don't ask me why. I really thought he wouldn't leave without that tree! Yet I'm fully aware of how capable he is. Today, he allowed us to enter the contest and exit without any tussle.). A final trip down a path led us to a barn full of decorated mannequins, all with greenery and ribbons and other decorations made to make the costumes look lifelike, but festive. We picked the angel and cast our vote for the possible winner.
If your child needs a holiday activity, and if your child is somewhat manageable, THIS SPOT IS FOR YOU! Now that Greg is grown and more mature, he listens when I instruct him to hold my arm to cross the road, he complies when I ask him to drop a raffle ticket into a box and he patiently waits while I pay a donation for some cookies. We have seen huge changes in him now that he resides in a somewhat more independent environment of a group home with supervision.
Parents! Remember this! Last week as I sat in the doctor's office awaiting my appointment, I witnessed an adult with autism in full, deep adult voice mode. He chanted and sang and pranced. I looked up, not startled by his antics, rather, I was surprised that no one, not a soul, said a word, looked up or seemed aware that someone special was doing his thing.
WE ARE IN A NEW GENERATION. This generation of hope is characterized by society's acceptance of the bizarre, somewhat lovable and entertaining, but disconcerting noises and actions of our autistic children.
So, get out there! Take your child places. You are making your child feel welcome everywhere. That is a form of acceptance that all children need. Affirm their existence. Accept them. Don't worry about society. Society is changing, and it is changing quickly.
Greg studied the train, its village and the lights and movement with patience and a mixture of interest and incomprehensibly, boredom. I timed our visit around his interest level which was about ten minutes.