File under: “Rules I thought I would never have to make”

new_rules

As promised in “Looking Handsome in the Princess Room”, here is the story about the next time DC met Snow White.

Right around this time last year we decided to go on a Disney Cruise. DC as you can imagine, was very excited. He loved the cruise, the shows, the mountain of bacon he tried to sneak every morning and of course, the characters on board, specifically the Princesses.

This particular evening we had just met one princess and were about to get in line for “Alice” when the boy that was managing the line told us that Alice was almost finished and ready to leave (we seem to have that same problem with “Alice” every time we see her, but it always works out – another story for another time). We went and stood where DC could at least see her and explained that she was leaving soon so he would not be able to meet her. The “Line Manager” who must have been watching DC when he met the previous princess and also saw how excited he was just looking at Alice, came over to us and told us that Snow White was due out soon and he had arranged it so we would be second in line to see her. First in line would be the family of the woman who was playing Snow White (shhhh! I didn’t say that!).

After everyone cleared away, he put us and “the family” in line. DC was over the moon and she hadn’t even come out yet!

I think we have been to Disney every year – or close to every year since DC was 7 but he is always just as excited to see the princesses as he was the very first time. The “Line Manager”, between dancing up and down the line, stopped to talk to DC a few times. He was getting a kick about how excited DC was.

Finally she came out. We waited through the family visit and pictures and then it was DC’s turn. I took my regular position with the camera and Doug stood off to the side a little bit.

DC was having some sort of conversation with Snow White while I was taking pictures.

Meeting Snow White

Meeting Snow White

Next he gave her a huge hug, she seemed okay with that.

The Hug

The Hug

Then……

He got so excited, he picked her up and swung her around in a circle like a rag doll!

Did I get a photo? no… a video? no. We (the “Line Manager” included) were all too busy charging the little stage area because he was not letting her go!

I have to hand it to Snow White; she stayed in character the entire time!

“Oh MY! How strong you are!”

Obviously, he was not trying to hurt her, it was just a very exaggerated hug!

Snow White was fine – everyone was fine. We got our picture and left the area, but I  felt it was necessary to make a new rule;

“YOU CAN NOT PICK UP THE PRINCESSES!”

I didn’t realize that the same people play the same princess parts for the duration of the cruise until a few nights later when we went to the Princess Room to see 4 princesses. I realized that it was the same Snow White. Oh boy, I was sure she was going to call security for DC’s visit.

When we got to the front of the line, the “Line Manager” from the other day was also there.

“Hey, I remember you!”

I said that I was sure that he did.

He turned to Snow White and said “Snow, do you remember DC?”

Snow White said “Oh My yes! You are very strong!”

I told both of them not to worry, we have a new rule and DC will not pick her up and spin her around.

DC walked up to Snow White and said,

“I have to “Apolo  – gize” .

That was a complete surprise to me and  Snow White seemed to think it was cute. She told him everything was fine.

He proceeded to “Apolo – gize” to every other princess in the line. They all accepted his apology even though the rest of them had no idea what he was “Apolo – gizing” for.

I’m sure they were all informed later……..

The rule has been altered a bit since then. Now, anytime I know that we are going to meet anyone that he will be excited about,  I ask:

“What’s the rule?”

DC answers “Don’t pick up the people”

I think that should cover it.

There is another great story about this vacation and I will get to it one of these days.

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Seriously?

Seriously

I have read so many articles and lists recently regarding “What not to say to an Autism Parent” and “The 10 dumbest things people have said”, etc…….

And yes, yes, I’ve heard almost all of them before – more than once.

I’ve been told “He doesn’t look Autistic”

He doesn't look Autistic

He doesn’t look Autistic

At a birthday party a parent asked “Does he eat?”

Another: “Can he talk?”

Yes

“Well he’s okay then, right?”

I’ve always said that I’d rather people ask questions than stare or assume. Some people do, and I always welcome the fact that they want to learn. I have had many wonderful conversations with strangers that were genuinely interested in learning about autism – his autism, as the saying goes…. “If you meet one Autistic person, you’ve met ONE Autistic person.” ~ Unknown

Recently I was visiting DC’s work program. There was a woman standing there that looked a bit familiar to me, but I could not place her. She looked at me and said “I know you, Vickie”

I was the team manager for our local Special Olympics golf team for a few years (insert laughter, as I know NOTHING about golf) and her nephew who has autism, was one of my players.

We chatted for a bit.  As it turned out,  she was there because her nephew was transitioning into the same work program as DC.

As we were chatting,  she said:

“Your son is SO handsome. You should be thankful he has Autism so you won’t have to worry about all of the girls that would be flocking around him”

Now she is a very nice woman and I know in her own way, she actually thought this was a compliment, but……..

Seriously?????

Literally Speaking

Raining Cats and Dogs

Raining Cats and Dogs

Twelve years ago, I wrote this:

“You can NEVER be too specific:

 While learning “grocery shopping” in the classroom; his plastic cart full of plastic food… he was told that it was time to “put everything on the counter to pay” – Instead of taking the food out of the cart, he lifted the entire cart onto the counter!”

And

“When you tell your child to pull his sweat pants down over his socks and he proceeds to PULL HIS PANTS DOWN from the waist to his ankles – You know you were not specific enough with your request.”

And a few years later, this:

My son loves to write little “stories” (he thinks they are stories, but they are usually just one line).

I had been home from work for a few days with the “Flu”.  It really didn’t occur to me that he had no idea what the “Flu” was and I wondered why he would laugh each time I mentioned it. He decided he would write one of his one-line “stories” for me to make me feel better ……

“Mom was so high”

It took me a few minutes…… but then I realized he thought I “Flew”

  • Then there was the time I said “Now listen closely” and he stuck his face one inch from mine…..
  •  He laughed for about a week after I told him it was time to “hit the road”.
  •  Or.. after the third round of kids whacked the piñata at his camp Halloween party, the Director said “Okay, DC, lets’ see you to tear it up” – he yanked it down and ripped it apart with his hands.

Tear it up

There are so many other examples, but these few really stick in my head.

Needless to say, like many people with autism, DC takes everything literally.  Over the years, I have gotten much better at recognizing when something is said or read that taken literally will not make much sense to him. I always try to stop and explain what it means in that context, whether he asks or not.

He has made a great deal of progress in that area as well. He knows that the “flu” does not mean “flying”. He gets that “hit the road” means we have to get going. But he knows these things because they were explained to him, he is not able just figure it out himself – how could he?

Knowing this about my son, I suppose, when I told him to “walk slowly” on the sidewalk just in case there was ice (there wasn’t), I should have expected this:

Progress with a Side of Pasta

Progress with a side of Pasta

Progress with a side of Pasta

Looking back over the past year, I can honestly say that it has been a very good and productive year.

DC completed his first full year of “work”.  He transitioned into it very well. Me? I am the one still having a problem calling it “work” and not “school”, the “car” is here, instead of the “bus”. I panic each time a school vacation comes along because I have to make plans for DC while I’m working, until I realize he doesn’t get those weeks off anymore; he’s working. The transition seems to be much more difficult for me than it was for him.

Volunteer

Volunteer “Dream Job”

My “Broadway Baby” also has a volunteer job as a Greeter at a local theater, with a job coach of course. He loves it and does well. The shifts are long, but he makes it through and he is happy when he gets home. How many of us can say we have our Dream Job? DC has his.

Because of his “theater experience” he was asked to help his camp by passing out programs at the annual “Thank You to Our Civic Groups” picnic. Unfortunately, the promise of cheeseburgers after he was finished totally distracted him while he was supposed to be working, so we will write  that one off as a “trial run” and I will know how to better explain the process to him next year.

Communication-wise, I’ve noticed that I am doing much less prompting to get him to respond to a greeting and many times he will initiate a greeting himself; although “Hello Old Lady isn’t exactly in my top ten, he DID initiate the conversation himself. He was also able to tell me a couple of  times, in his own way, but in a way that I was able to figure out, that he wasn’t feeling well.

He has been asking to do  more things “All by myself”, like making his lunch for school work, his breakfast, making his bed and shaving. “All by myself” means he doesn’t even want me in the room (a good thing with the shaving……. I make him nervous – me?- “Mom, are you still here?”).

This year we skipped our annual Halloween trip to either Salem or Sleepy Hollow and decided to go to New York ComicCon. To say it was  crowded is an understatement. He did well. Yes, he was anxious, but he controlled himself as best he could.  Mike TeeVee came at the perfect moment. DC was getting anxious so we were on our way off the show floor because I could see he was getting upset. We happened upon “Mr. TeeVee” on the way. No line,  as I don’t think anyone realized he was there yet. He was very nice and was able to spend some extra time with DC. DC calmed down right away.

He waited in line for an HOUR and A HALF to see the love of his life, Felicia Day. Do you remember when your kids were little? When they would finally eat or do something that they never would before and you were afraid to even look at them for fear they would stop? This is exactly how I felt standing in that line with him. I don’t think I was even breathing. Fortunately she came out early and we were relatively close to the front of the line, so I knew we were “home free” at that point. He was excited when she came out but then he turned to me and said “I am very nervous about this”. He has used the word “nervous” up to this point only when there was a storm, never about meeting anyone. I think he realized right then and there that the people he sees on TV or in the movies are real people AND that this person, that he adores, is someone special.

Penny's Frozen Yogurt

Penny’s Frozen Yogurt

We made it to the front, I could breathe again.  She was lovely to him. It made his day.

He was also able to meet William Shatner. He does know who that is due to his mother (me). He was very nice to him as well but “no pictures please”. We did forget to tell him that DC was born on his birthday; maybe that would have rated us a picture –but live and learn.

His Uncle asked him to sing Edelweiss at the table on Christmas Eve. DC is, and always has been, a ham so I was surprised that he sang the song, looking only at me and then buried his head in my arm when he was finished. Bashful! Embarrassed! I don’t know if this is a good thing or not,  BUT, it IS a new reaction and a new emotion so I will add this to the Plus Column as well.

There is so much more I can say about this year, but my point is, DC is 22, he continues to make progress. No, not in leaps and bounds as he did when he was younger, but it is there.

No matter what the age, there is always progress to be made. It may not even be noticeable right away, but it is there.

And, Oh……. On New Year’s Eve, Eve,  two days before the year ended, he actually ate pasta. PASTA!

Happy New Year!