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Autism: What Change May Come

It has been a cold, wet spring. I am not sure what to make of it as thoughts of ‘typical’ are replaced with an idea that things are changing and perhaps what once was will no longer be. I must prepare myself to accept what changes may come, for I know that flexibility is not natural for me – yet can be survived, perhaps even well, should I accept ahead of time that “all shall be well.”

All winter, for instance, we had our bird feeders hanging from the maple tree in the front yard, filled with seed – but the birds didn’t come. “Oh well,” I thought, “we can take the remaining seed up to the lake in the summer, and feed the squirrels and chipmunks.”

Then, a little over a week ago, the birds started coming. I have refilled the feeder twice since. True, it was meant to help them survive the winter, and there are many other things they could be eating now, but it sure is nice to watch them at a time when I am able to sit outside (even if I remain undercover, bundled in a sweater.)

It is a change, but I am okay.

There is another change that I am considering for this year. It is not so much the change itself that causes me to hesitate, but the ability (or rather inability) to express it well… the need, that is. The idea – and one vocalized as a suggestion from a friend, and confirmed as a… sensible choice from a relative – is that I not go up to “the lake” this year.

Vacation July 2016 014

The more I consider this, and the more I observe “my girls” growing calm and content in the safety of our yard, the more I come to believe this to be the most logical course for me to take. There are just too many things about that trip which cause me stress and anxiety:

  • food issues which have always lead to meltdown and humility there
  • eagles, osprey and other wildlife that actively seek to eat my girls
  • where I will sleep (tents are no longer suitable as I fear for safety for my girls)
  • how to stop my girls from barking and chasing neighbours, family, and their dogs
  • cows – yes, cows! Clara will chase them, which also becomes a danger, and they are free range up there
  • how to safely contain my girls when I go swimming, kayaking, or playing games with others up there
  • a more than 2 hour drive each way to get there in a vehicle without air conditioning (again, safety and food issues, and there is the motion sickness on top of that)

As I consider all of these things, and my anxiety grows, I return to the comment from my friend. “Wouldn’t it be better to stay home?”

Is it better to stay home? Pretty much always!

And the truth is, I live in a beautiful tourist town where my pastor frequently reminds us, “people save all year to come to a place like this.” And he is right!

My house is a short walk from the lake, and two beautiful nature trails. I live maybe a five minute drive from a really nice beach. I have a fully fenced yard, with many shade trees and bushes, a lawn swing and a freestanding hammock, lots of wildlife (though easier to keep my girls safe) right here in my own home.

My girls are happy here, and I am able to relax, so… why would I want to leave?

 

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Autism: New Choices

I stare up at the menu, and the workers try to be patient with me. I am not an easy person to be patient with. Especially in situations such as this. The menu isn’t huge, but I don’t know what these words mean: Frappuccino, macchiato… it isn’t even in English!!! How am I supposed to decide.

And then there are all those numbers beside the words. $3.75, $4.95… for a small drink? Are they joking? It doesn’t matter to me that we have a gift card, because as soon as we walked into the store, it was about buying the drink, and those prices – outrageous! No wonder I have never bought anything from them before.

In fact, it has been years! Years since I even walked into one to consider buying something there. I am pretty certain it was before I moved here, and that was sixteen years ago. I think I even had a coupon – but I couldn’t do it. Not at those prices. Not even with a coupon. Not even with a gift card. Nope.

Of course, this issue isn’t linked only to this one place. I don’t do ‘new’ well, especially when it comes to food. How do I even know if I will like it? And if $5 is spent on me for a drink, that I can’t even swallow, because it tastes gross – or that leaves me feeling sick because it had milk in it, when I didn’t know – it would take me a long time to get over that.

It was a nice gesture. The idea of finally trying something from there, when so many people seem to love their drinks… I wanted to. I really did. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t spend the money – even if it wasn’t mine. I couldn’t choose from a menu that I could hardly read. I couldn’t bring myself to try something new. Too hard. Too much.

And while it may have been a disappointment for the person who had brought me out, I still couldn’t do it. I am glad it was my husband. I am glad he understood. I am thankful we were with family, and they agreed with me when I said I would just go and spend my gift card at the coffee shop where I know what I like (and where the prices, though high, are not nearly that high.) They understood. They agreed. After all, the card my husband was given wouldn’t cover both of our drinks, and he can handle surprise. Better for him to use it on himself, and for me to get a drink I know from past experience that I would enjoy.

I suppose all things were new at some point – even food. But those times when I started, even the things I know I like now, were long drawn out, uncomfortable, anxiety provoking experiences. I am thankful, really thankful, when what was new isn’t new anymore. Familiar. Same. Safe.

So I go to the same restaurants, and order the same food and drinks time after time, year after year. Often I will look at the menu, and consider ordering something else. But always I fall back on the familiar. After all, safe is safe – and change? It is just too hard.niagara falls

 

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Autism: Quick to Say “No”

You have to give me time, I think. Time to process. Time to consider. Time to decide. If you want an answer now, it is going to be “no.” The answer is always, “no,” if I am not given time to think.

There was that one time, though. But then, she didn’t ask for an answer right away. She said, “I don’t want you to answer right away, but…” and she told me the situation. Her daughter was in my daycare, but the mother’s job had stopped suddenly. She knew I required notice, and most parents in that situation, would just leave without paying anyway – but she gave me a choice.

If she had waited for an answer in that moment, I would have held to my regulations. I need two weeks notice, in order to fill the space. That, or I would have asked for the money for the space. But she gave me time to decide, which allowed me the ability to be flexible.

“It is okay,” I told her, “I understand.” I didn’t ask her to stay. I didn’t ask her for money for any time past what she had used. Reasonable – but the only reason I could be reasonable was because she gave me time… or perhaps the only reason I am not reasonable at other times is because I wasn’t given the opportunity.

I can’t turn from my routine, from my rules, from the direction I am heading in a moment. I need time. Being flexible, for me, is more like turning a large ship, than walking around a corner. It takes time, and I need warning, or I will crash.

And crashing, for me – at least in the beginning – means that I will dismiss all of your ideas, all of your plans, all of your suggestions…. but give me time, and the answer is much more likely to be a “yes.”

Otherwise, it is always, “no.” No is my go to answer. I don’t even have to think of it – in fact, that is the point.

“Can I do this?” No.

“Can we give him this?” No.

“Can we go here?” No.

“Can we use this instead?” No. No! No!!!

Controlling. Inflexible. Unreasonable.

Give me time, and you might get a yes. I guess that is why emails are so much easier than phone calls. I guess that is why I would rather write than have face to face conversations. I can be flexible, but not if you need the answer right away.

But then again, there is food. There has to be an exception to every rule, and this one is mine. If I am hungry, I become much less flexible. The hungrier I am, the more I can’t turn around. The more I can’t consider any alternatives.

So, if you need a decision – give me the details (the more, the better) and then give me time to think. But if I am hungry… fire the ideas at me, and don’t stop – because if I get hungry, I am done.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Autism: Out in Public

 

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