As a lot of families with Autism know, vacations can be a recipe for disaster – the lack of structure, the unfamiliar environments, the missing preferred foods and sounds… and in our case, especially, I tend to spend more nights on overnight trips in the minivan with the Monster, than I do enjoying the bed I’m paying for.
At some point, though, you just have to bite the bullet and take a trip.
A few months ago, my mother suggested the idea of a trip with all of the grandchildren to the Wildwoods. The idea was simple – we’d rent a house with enough beds for everyone, so we could cook and have space for everyone to separate. This way, the five grandchildren could have their preferred foods, we could save money over eating out, and hopefully… actually sleep. (Plus, it was reasonably equidistant from everyone.) Having grown up in New Jersey, The Wildwoods were where we went, when we went down the Shore. I have fond childhood memories of that area, and so this was a great chance to take my kids to the place where I’d hit the beach… and so we were willing to give it a try. My mother rented a nice three-floor house a block off the beach near the amusement piers, and we all loaded into cars to head for some fun and sun.
And strangely enough… it kind of worked.
Yes, we had some meltdowns. But having a house, I didn’t feel quite like I do when we’re at a hotel with the concern that he’s keeping hundreds of people up if he screams in the middle of the night. Plus, we were sedating him a bit and giving him the iPad (despite my reservations) to give him an outlet, and it seems like he didn’t wake R all that much (who was sharing a room with him). Largely, we were able to sleep through the night, and be refreshed enough to enjoy the sun and the sand and the surf…
And the Monster loved the beach.
I don’t know if he actually liked the beach part or not – he kept lying down on his belly in the sand and creeping forward, clearly for the sensory experience. And at the beginning, his going into the water was mostly to plop himself down in the waves and keep stimming himself with the wet sand running through his fingers. After a day of that, we coaxed him out into the waves – it’s not like he’d not been to the beach before, since he’s been to Surfers’ Healing events. And after he’d started to imitate how we were dealing with the waves, or jumping over them, I took him deeper still.
I’m sure it’s something sensory about the pressure of the waves, about how they hit the body and things of that nature, but being out where there were stronger waves seemed to be something he really enjoyed. Even when he got taken off his feet by a wave and swept along, he didn’t freak out about the whole thing and kept getting back up for more.
Going to the amusement pier went pretty well – I’ll talk about that one tomorrow, though. I’ve already talked about the zoo…
One of the childhood things that we tried to make sure the kids got in, though, was a trip to the arcade. The wife had gotten a Groupon to one of the arcades which included lunch, quarters, prize tickets and some stuffed animals off the bat, and with a coupon, we were already ‘even’ in terms of the value. The kids… were not good at skeeball. *sigh* (It’s harder than it looks when you’re trying to help a NT 3 year old and ASD 7 year old throw the ball right along the machine…) But pokerino, on the other hand – that the kids loved, and both of them were able to play reasonably well. We ended up making off with two more stuffed animals, and a new plastic shovel for our next beach trip. (For the record – the arcade otherwise was probably a really bad idea. Too much sensory input for the Monster, and we spent a good deal of the time trying to manage his overstimulation.)
The majority of the meltdowns that occurred centered around his current obsession – riding in the car – as our van was blocked in the driveway behind other vehicles, and therefore there was no avoiding having a problem. (I don’t know that I precisely would have wanted to go tooling around Wildwood anyway.) We just got to the point of trying to distract him from his being upset to buy some time till we were going to be in the car for the drive back, because there was nothing else really to do. The meltdowns, though, did prevent us from doing a couple of the ‘nice-to-do’ things that I’d had on the list for the drive home, like stopping for mini-golf or at a brewery/winery for a tour. (I’m an autism parent. Is it any surprise that I drink now and again? And if I’m going to drink, I’m going to try a local brew or wine now and again.) None of those things we missed, though, are things that we won’t have an opportunity to do again in the future.
Would we do it again? Definitely. I don’t think we’d be cut out for staying at a hotel, due to the obvious issues I mentioned before, but… a rental seems to be a not-bad way to handle a trip with him. And, though I’m probably jinxing myself to say it, I’m actually starting to imagine that in another year or two – when R is old enough to really make it worthwhile – Disney might not be out of the question…