Monday, May 2, 2011

Asperger's in Public

On Sunday we went to a local wildlife festival.  They hold this once a year and it is a very fun place to take the kids.  Everyone was excited to go, especially Kyle.

We arrived early but still had to park quite a bit away from the event.  As we walked towards the entrance we came up to a presentation going on about turtles.  A group of about thirty people were listening to the leader talk about turtles and watching him remove a couple painted turtles that he caught in the trap.  Kyle was so excited but very frustrated.  He loudly was proclaiming to everyone that he couldn't see and tried barging through the cluster to get a closer look.  I took him aside and tried explaining to him that he would get a chance to see and that these people were trying to listen to what the gentleman had to say about the turtles.  The rest of the world did not matter to Kyle, so I decided to keep on walking so that way the crowd could continue to enjoy the presentation.

We made it to the entrance, paid the admission, then set out to decide what we were going to check out first.  We followed Kyle in the direction he wanted to go to.  It was a presentation on creepy crawlers.  As we were heading in that direction we came upon another cluster around a huge tortoise.  Kyle runs up to start touching it...complete disregard to the people that were posing with it for a picture.  I came up right behind Kyle and explained that there was a line and that these people were trying to pose for a photograph.  To him, it was only Kyle and the tortoise in the world at that moment and that was all that mattered.  I gently removed Kyle from the tortoise.  The gentleman that was patiently waiting to take the picture of his family smiled and said 'thank you' which is always nice to see and hear.  As I was 'removing' Kyle from the tortoise he was loudly yelling, pulling away from me and causing a scene.  I tried holding his hand and he kept throwing himself on the ground.  I stood there in line bear hugging him (he likes deep pressure) trying to calm him and explaining that he would get a chance to touch the tortoise but that we had to be respectful to the people that were waiting before us.  The wait was literally only a minute, but the temper tantrum lasted the whole time.  No one said anything to me, but their looks said it all.  I usually don't speak up, but one lady was really bothering me with her looks so I said unapologetically, "Sorry.  My son has Asperger's."  She didn't respond but she stopped her staring.

I don't like situations like this.  Talking with Kyle's psychiatrist she said that there really isn't anything you can do about it but have a thick skin.  I agree with this, but wish that it wasn't that way.  I feel like the easiest thing to do (but obviously not something I would do) when I go anywhere is to make a public announcement so that way everyone is aware of the situation.  My son doesn't look any different than anyone else, but that doesn't mean that the struggles aren't there.

After the first hour, the rest of the day went rather well.  We actually were able to stay there five hours because things went that great.  After the initial excitement wore off, Kyle was more receptive to my instructions.  'More receptive' does not mean that we didn't have anymore meltdowns, just that they weren't as severe.

Also, if you are even thinking of suggesting that maybe this isn't somewhere to take my child...don't even say it.  Not only does my child have the right to be there and have as much fun as everyone else, how else is he supposed to learn?  All of these struggles are learning moments.  Learning for Kyle, myself and any bystanders.  How can anyone be expected to know how to stand in a line without doing it a couple of times?  It might just take my child a few hundred more times than the 'normal' child to do so.  But, I bet those 'normal' kids don't know half the stuff that my child does.  :) 

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