Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adolescent special needs - the epic trip

35 friends and relatives across five sites. Two provinces and 7 states. More than 3,300 miles of driving. It was an epic family car trip.

A car trip with 1 dog, 1 neurotypical child, and two boys on the spectrum. Two boys, and two hormone wracked adolescent.

It was a great holiday. We had no need of a lawyer, a physician, a veterinarian, a mechanic or a psychiatrist.

So it can be done, assuming one is a special needs veteran and accustomed to crises that might topple a regular parent. The mixture of motion, of car time and time limited but intense visits seems to work for our guys. It's not something I remember from the days I read parenting texts, but we're data driven. We go with what works.

The trip is an opportunity to reflect on the autistic adolescent. On the one hand, the desires are intense, and there's a complex mixture of the adult and the child. On the other hand, intense desires are also opportunities for the Machiavellian parent (as we must be). They give us new challenges, and new levers.

More problematically, behaviors that could be ignored in a fresh faced child are more sensitive in a strong jawed neo-adult who needs to start shaving. Punching was never acceptable, but now it's dangerous.

The upside is that we're seeing an overall improvement in most behaviors. I don't know why that is. Maybe it's just practice, but I'm hoping his brain is better able to sequence events, to connect action with reaction, and perhaps even to anticipate consequences, to be able to plan towards an end. The improvements, at this time, are pulling ahead of the downsides of adolescence.

Only 80 years to go now ...