Autism is not easy to describe because it manifests differently in each person affected by it. Bryan’s autism consists of three major areas: communication, anxiety, and impulse control. I decided a few months ago that I was going to take the boys to LA for Spring Break, which was last week. Jason has wanted to go to LA for a long time; something about the allure of Hollywood and the possibility of being “discovered”. Bryan just wants to make sure he is included and is going too. I’ve been a single mom for about a year now and, quite honestly, this factor never really entered into the equation of going. I am typically a goer and a doer so I just made the plans.
As the trip was getting closer I sensed anxiety from Bryan. I am not surprised by this fact, nor do I really focus on it. Bryan can be completely relaxed about something difficult or awkward, like a school trip or a doctor’s appointment, yet very anxious about movie tickets or going to the mall. Over the years I have learned that it’s way better to just ride it out and deal with the behaviors that come than try to spend cycles anticipating things that may never happen. I have also learned that experience teaches you that you can tackle things if you believe in yourself. I think you either try to learn from your life or you don’t. You are either introspective or you are not.
Getting back to Bryan and fearless. I let the boys know that the flights would be very long. I let them know that there will be ridiculous traffic in LA and there will be many long car rides. I let them know that we are going to have lots of plans and lots of fun and that they are going to have to deal with a crazy mommy. They both were excited by the plans and looking forward to the trip. On the flight out to LA I started feeling some anxiety creep up on me about driving everywhere. I don’t like to get lost and I started thinking, am I nuts to take two kids with me on this trip where although I’ve been to LA multiple times, I’ve never been at the helm navigating my way? Bryan was holding my hand on the flight and was talking about going to the Santa Monica Pier, our plans after arrival, car, hotel, etc. I watched how he was processing everything and although he was anxious, he was coping. After we got to the rental car and started on our way, Bryan freaked out a bit about the traffic. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the hotel and I realized he was probably hungry. We checked in, had lunch, and I noticed that he was really taking it all in. He was excited for our plans and although he was very anxious about the drive to Santa Monica (where I did get a little lost and frazzled) and about the day, he did his best to go with it. By the time we finished our day, on the Pier with my childhood friend and her family, plus dinner near UCLA, he was relaxed and tired. As predicted, as soon as we got back to the hotel he went to sleep. Bryan absolutely loves to go to sleep. The next day we went on a tour of the celebrity homes. Bryan’s only real interest in this had to do with the movies that these celebrities were in. He loves movies!!! That night we were going to a taping of America’s Got Talent. Some combination of the traffic, the time of day, and the waiting made us all very irritable. By the time we got into the theater we had been waiting for 90 minutes. Bryan was done. Jason was so excited for the show, but as a veteran of all things Bryan, he knew he was on borrowed time. I watched Jason try his best to calm Bryan. Bryan did his best to watch the show. At one point I looked over at Bryan who was sitting on the other side of Jason and my eyes filled with tears; he was fearless. He was trying with everything he had to calm down. He knew how much Jason wanted to be there and he knew that we were not leaving in 5 minutes. I had a moment where I thought to myself, did I just push it too hard? Is this too much? What is wrong with me, my kid has autism and I’m expecting too much. After a while Bryan was really hungry and anxious. Jason looked at me and said, “let’s just go”. I can’t think of a moment I felt more pride. Bryan tried to cope to please Jason and Jason suggested leaving to please Bryan. The rest of the trip was uneventful in the best way possible.
Typically going home can trigger major anxiety for Bryan. I had braced myself for a very long flight home filled with constant talking, reassuring, and anxiety. Bryan was fantastic on the way home. I have no idea why he was calm when he typically isn’t. All I know is that he successfully navigated a huge trip and proved once again, that you can never underestimate a person with autism. Fearless!!