Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

This weekend we took a trip to Kansas City for a family reunion. In this adventure I saw many different sides of autism, and a few surprises. For this week’s column I’m going to share the stories of our vacation.

Let’s start with the almost-six-hour drive. We packed up the laptop and several DVDs along with toys, snacks, and drinks. This seemed to keep both boys calm for the most part. There were only minor fights along the way, which are to be expected. It wasn’t until about four-and-a-half hours into the trip that things started go south. It seemed at that point that no matter what Kruz did it irritated Konner. He began screaming for Kruz to be quiet, even though he wasn’t making much noise. Then Kruz began singing a song and Konner said, “Hush, I hate that song.” It wasn’t long before Kruz was asleep and all was well when we reached the Hotel.

However, when we got to the room they both came back to life. They were jumping on the bed and running around. Konner started to scream again, and I was sure we were going to have a meltdown, or at least get kicked out of the room. Finally they both crashed out, and so did we.

The next morning we got up and made a visit to Wal-Mart. We needed a few things we had forgotten, and I decided to pick up some bribery materials. We let them pick some toys that they could have, “Only if they were good at breakfast and the family reunion.”

We then headed to McDonalds for breakfast. Kruz was cranky which caused Konner to be agitated. After about five minutes we were leaving to avoid a meltdown.

We then made our way to the park in Liberty, Mo. where the family reunion was being held. There was a “Sprayground” (sprinkler park), so we let the kids go play in the water. Konner decided not to play even though all the other kids were enjoying the cool water. He paced around the water pad, but never made his way into the sprinklers. I found this strange since he loves playing in the water.

After about 45 minutes he seemed to be over-stimulated. He asked to go back to the hotel. He even got in the car and sat there ready to go. This is when I asked if he wanted his new toy. After opening a Thomas the Train toy he played quietly for a few minutes and seemed to be calm. In the mean time there were several other family members, including kids, arriving. Things were getting louder. People were moving all around. Food was cooking. The sun was getting hotter. All these things started getting to Konner. He decided to move to a part of the park where nobody else was. Jennifer followed him and sat with him while he calmed down. Then he moved back toward the playground area. He began pacing more and was saying that he wanted to go to the hotel. Then he sat under a tree with Jen again and calmed down some, but was still restless. We decided to go ahead and leave.

When we got back to the hotel we decided to take the boys to the indoor pool and hot tub. He enjoyed both and seemed to calm down.

We had plans to visit Worlds of Fun where they have a play area for children called Planet Snoopy. It was at this point that he wanted to go see Snoopy. He was so set on it that he began the only meltdown of the trip. This is when we decided to go eat. We went to Chick-Fil-A where they could enjoy the play area. They had fun there and he seemed to be fine. However, he was still ready to go see Snoopy.

We arrived at Worlds of Fun at the end of a thunderstorm which turned out to be a blessing. The park was not very crowded, and the temperature had dropped several degrees. We made a b-line for Planet Snoopy, and the lines were not very long.

Eventually he got to meet Snoopy and got his picture with him.

I was his riding partner for most of the rides and noticed that he didn’t have much expression during the rides. I kept asking him if he was having fun, and he said he was. We moved from ride to ride and had a fun afternoon. He wanted to ride the train that circles the park and he liked that.

We decided to move toward the front of the park and visit a couple shops on the way out for souvenirs. That’s when he decided that he wanted to ride the Spinning Dragons. This is a level 5 thrill ride. He had his heart set on it. So he started waiting in line with his mom. She kept asking if he was sure that he wanted to ride it.

After a little mishap with his brother that landed us in the first aid tent (not to worry it was nothing serious), he wanted to go back and ride the roller coaster. He didn’t want to leave until he rode it. So this time I decided to ride it with him. We began waiting in line and he started talking about how he wasn’t going to be scared. Every time I asked him if he was sure he would repeat, “I’m not gonna be scared.” About halfway through the line I realized he had to use the bathroom. I told him we could go to the bathroom and come back. He didn’t want to get out of line, and said he would hold it. Soon it was our turn. I explained that we couldn’t go back now, and he was ready to go. We boarded the roller coaster and he was wide-eyed, but kept repeating that he wasn’t going to be scared. As we began to move his eyes were bigger. We reached the top of the first hill and I thought his eyes were going to come out of his head. He just kept saying, “I’m not scared.” As we came to a stop he was white as a sheet and said, “Dad I was really brave and didn’t get scared.” All I could say was, “You did awesome.”

The next morning we went to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel and had 14 family members dining with us. It was a busy place, and I expected to leave early. However, he proved me wrong again. Konner sat in his chair the entire time and was really quiet and good. He had crayons and something to color. Even with the loud clattering of silverware and dishes he was really good.

The trip home was loud and included screaming about halfway through until we got home. Everything seemed to trouble him. After that long weekend it was expected, but annoying while driving.

In all it was a great trip though. Both boys were really pretty good, and we had the one meltdown.

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