Our Family & Autism

Yesterday I slept in.  It was lovely.  When I woke Emma and Nic greeted me with a Happy Mother’s Day song (complete with pompoms and a loosely choreographed dance) that was so wonderful I wished I’d recorded it.  My thoughtful and doting husband made me a fabulous breakfast and then Emma and I went to her study room.  We are working on the concept of two or more as in – “Some frogs”, “What are these?”  “These are trucks.” etc.  After the study room we went swimming at the Y, something Emma has been requesting we do for weeks now.  It was completely empty and for the first half hour we had the entire pool to ourselves.  This is unheard of in New York City!  We then went to see Hoodwinked Too – a movie Nic has wanted to see since it came out, followed by dinner at a restaurant.  A little something for everyone.

For those of you who do not have an autistic family member this must seem like a perfectly normal way to spend a day.  But for those of you who are like us, you already know without me saying another word, how incredibly, gutsy and insane it is to even attempt the things I’ve just casually listed.  Let me explain.

Because of the issue of transitions, never easy for Emma, her very specific sensory issues coupled with her need for routine and sameness, a day as I’ve described can be a veritable minefield of upsets and cause untold anxiety for Emma. With this in mind we prepared Emma for the day by going over the key points with her – study room, lunch, swimming, movie in the movie theatre, dinner, cupcakes at home – and repeated this list throughout the day, often with Emma interjecting for clarification, “not movie at home, movie in movie theatre!”

The swimming was easy, it is something Emma absolutely loves to do and we try to arrange at least one day a week when she can go, though this isn’t always as simple in New York City as it may sound.  Needless to say we do not live in one of those coveted buildings in New York City with an indoor pool.  However, there are a number of excellent pools throughout Manhattan and so it is not impossible to arrange.  After we swam, (Emma was ecstatic and we all had a great time) we made our way to the movies.  This transition can be tough for Emma ending with protests, tears or worse.  Movies are not something she particularly enjoys and even though this was a kid friendly animated movie, Emma was just as likely to find it intolerable.  It is difficult for her to sit still through the trailers, she doesn’t like the 3-D glasses (I don’t either) and unless it has lots of music, the movie usually does not hold her interest for long.  Emma then will begin standing up in her chair, looking at the people sitting in back of us and saying in a very loud voice, “NO!  You have to be quiet!”  which they find utterly confusing as none of them have spoken.   Emma is just as likely to put her index finger to her lips and make a loud “SHHHHHHHH!” noise, followed by “You have to be quiet!”  Other movie goers find this equally baffling, as we do our best to quiet her.  We always come prepared knowing one of us may have to leave with her, taking her to a nearby playground until the movie is over.  But yesterday she sat through the entire movie, with very little squirming and no audible protest.

After the movie we walked to a restaurant, a little trendy upscale diner with loud rock and roll music (a plus for Emma & Nic who knew all the songs) and with fast service.  Even so, going out to eat is not something we do often as a family as it can end with drinks knocked over, loud utterances of “Time to go now!” from Emma or she will simply get up and leave with one of us racing after her.  This restaurant was one of those places that doesn’t really get crowded until after 8:00PM so we had no trouble securing one of their much sought after booths at 6:30PM.  Emma has such a limited number of foods she’ll eat, we came prepared with her favorites, which she happily ate when our food was served and then patiently waited for us to finish.

Nic and Emma sitting in a booth at the restaurant.

Richard, ever the thoughtful boy scout had bought cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery the day before, thinking Emma was more likely to get into the celebratory spirit if there were cupcakes for dessert waiting for us at home.  So after we ate our dinner we made a pit stop at a playground across the street before going home to eat cupcakes.

Except when we returned home and brought out the cupcakes Emma said, “No thank you,” and wandered off to her bedroom.

“Wow, that’s new!  She doesn’t want one?” I looked at Richard incredulous.

“Hey, everything changes,” Richard said with a shrug.

By 8:00PM both children were in their pj’s, teeth brushed and flossed and in bed.

It was a perfect Mother’s Day.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook

2 responses to “Our Family & Autism

  1. Happy Mother’s Day, Ariane! Sounded like the perfect Sunday with the family and I can’t think of a more deserving individual. From the incredibly thoughtful mother’s day performance, to both kids harmoniously coexisting from morning till night, to a loving husband who regards every day like Mother’s Day, this was quite the procession in your honor. Richard is right, things have certainly changed for the better and continue to do so. I attribute much of it to hope – not the “cross your fingers” hope but the “get up and do absolutely everything in your power” hope that you have epitomized.

    Ariane, thank you for being such a heroic matriarch – one that never ceases to inspire me; one whose dedication to her family exudes hope and happiness; one that I am so grateful to have loved, laughed, cried, and worked tirelessly besides; one that I admire and appreciate on a daily basis. You’re an amazing mother and I salute you for all you’ve done to touch my life and the lives of all those around you.

    Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

  2. Thank you so much Joe. This is so kind, thoughtful and very, very touching. Thank you.

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