We just got home from a trip to Washington DC. Everett loves to travel more than anything. We count down days before trips for weeks. He will prompt you with saying, “How many days until we go to…” Just in the past year, we’ve taken him to the national parks in Utah, Smoky Mountains, Chattanooga, Memphis, Phoenix, Seaside, and Washington DC.
He watches the Peppa Pig episode called “Family Trip”. We also have the book and he re-enacts scenes from it as we get closer to leaving for a trip. He is so visual in his processing that he needs videos and pictures to be able to understand where we are going or what we are doing. If you’ve never heard of social stories, they are stories used specifically for people with autism to explain social situations and what behavior is expected in those situations. It helps them navigate new environments. For example, going to the doctor, going to the zoo, etc. One of Everett’s greatest strengths is finding videos and books that he uses as social stories. He memorizes the situations and phrasing in them and inserts it into real life as it plays out. During our “family trips”, he brings out his best English accent and reenacts Peppa and her family “Going on Holiday”. Everett is extremely theatrical in his re-enactments. Today, as we were leaving the baggage claim area in Huntsville to head home he had tears well up in his eyes and exclaimed, “I have to go on another family trip!” The entire way home he kept asking where our next family trip was going to be.
He calls a hotel “city house”. And he loves staying in city houses. When he was first able to spell and read, he would look up places we had stayed on previous trips and bring me the iPad with their website pulled up. I call him our little travel agent, because he is always hunting for the next trip.
Traveling with Everett isn’t always easy. He has lots of expectations on trips and it’s hard to manage his expectations when he has his mind set on what he thinks is going to happen. Wheeler explains it best when he observed on one trip that Everett can ruin his own time because he gets too excited and his brain is on overdrive.
He gets overstimulated easily and shuts down when he has had too much. We have to be careful how much you put on the schedule for the day and be ready to abandon the plan if he is done. If he gets too hot, he can be a real tool (and yes, I called my kid a tool. I actually edited it from a cuss word.) He gets hangry, but is so picky and when we are in unfamiliar places that don’t always fix things the way he is used to it can mean a meltdown. If we have to wait too long for food, he eyes every waiter that is taking food to tables from the kitchen. If it doesn’t come straight to our table with a plate full of French fries, he gives me the “you’re dead to me look” like it’s 100% my fault.
All of this is okay, because he truly has so much joy while we are traveling. He loves to ride on airplanes, trains, boats, buses, and any car that doesn’t belong to us. He loves carrying his backpack and suitcase. He loves pushing elevator buttons.
With his new behavioral therapy that has major social aspects, he now asks everyone we come into contact with “what’s your name?” And he greets hotel employees and flight attendants with such excitement. When boarding the trains, we could be five people back in line and he is calling from the back, “Hey Mr Conductor, I have my ticket. Can you say, ‘All Aboard’!”
We had a great trip and visited with Uncle Max while Clay was attending a Drug Court Conference. We were able to see where Max lives and meet a few of his friends. We went to Union Station, the Zoo and a couple of museums. We stayed in Old Town Alexandria, which is such a neat area. The metro stop is being renovated, so we had to get creative with getting into DC. We rode lots of commuter trains, which made Everett so happy. The Washington monument was lit up at night for the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Mission.
Traveling with Jack really deserves its own post. When we travel, Jack shines. This trip was by far his hardest working trip he has ever been on. It takes preparation and planning to make sure Jack is ready and taken care of on a trip like this. He was perfect and I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.
We haven’t decided where our next family trip will be, but you can guess this guy will be packed and ready to hit the road.