Monday, August 23, 2010

Preparation is Everything

It's only 3 words. You'd think that it'd be easy to remember. You'd think that by now I'd be used to it. This is the advice I give to EVERYONE when they tell me that they're just learning about someone being on the spectrum. So, why do I always seem to forget?

All right -- I don't need to create a social story for every SINGLE situation (even though it would probably help). But the things that can set off one or both of my ASD kids can be baffling.

Take this weekend for example. Like (seemingly) all Moms in the DC metro area, I am making sure my kids are ready for the first day of school by making sure they have an adequate wardrobe and piles of accessories. Recently, I noticed that Simon's crocs (which he had been wearing all summer) are getting harder and harder to get on his foot. And he has become very uncomfortable in them, pulling them off whenever humanly possible. So, yes, his shoes are too small (if the crocs are too small, then so are his sneakers). So, on Sunday morning, we all head over to the local shopping mall to get him (and maybe Daniel too, if there's a good sale) some new sneakers (Rachel's sneakers are relatively new and fit just fine).

We arrive at the mall shortly after it opens and Simon and I make a bee-line for Stride Rite (they seem to be the only ones who know how to fit shoes for my kids). And I happily notice they have an ongoing sale so we can take care of Daniel's sneakers as well. I sign us in and take Simon to the boys' sneakers and start trying to find a pair that (1) doesn't need to be tied and (2) I like (and think that Simon would too). Simon is looking pensive -- I don't think he wants to be there -- the store is getting crowded and there are shoes around. But do I notice the signs? Not really. At least I'm ignoring them. He NEEDS these sneakers. I have no choice.

About 5 minutes later, our name gets called and I bring over the sneakers that I think will work. I inform the sales person of the size that I estimate Simon's feet to be and she prepares to measure his foot. Simon's body is stiffening. I warn her that he's autistic and she immediately changes demeanor -- she's suddenly moving much slower and is very careful how she approaches him (nice to have someone who knows how, in general, to deal with kids who are uncomfortable in the store). But we need to measure his foot. I take off his crocs. Normally, this is a moment of jubilation. But in the store, he starts to SCREAM. He's kicking as hard as he can and tries to get away. The sales person brought him everything that was available -- stickers, socks (something soft to hold), even some paper and a pen for him to draw on. Nope. No go. So, she took my word on the potential size and brought out that one, one above and one below.

I pull Simon's socks out of my backpack and start to put them on him. He's gone. He wants out of there and he doesn't want to try on shoes. He's making such a scene that people are standing as far back as the walls of the store will allow. I don't even WANT to know what they're thinking -- bad/abusive parent, problem child, or worse -- I just go about doing what I have to do to get those socks on his feet so when the shoes are available, we'll have no added delays. (note: this is one of those times that I wish I had a label on him that everyone could see that says he's autistic to just avoid the stares and glares) She brings out the shoes and the first pair we're trying to force on his feet. The second pair slips on easily, but appear to be snug. Good! Job DONE!!!!!! Take them off, put on the crocs (over the socks) and take him to the play area.

I then bring Daniel into the store and he's done in just a few minutes without incident. The difference between an ASD child and a non-ASD child.

I KNEW we were going shoe shopping over the weekend. I was even pretty certain that we'd be going on Sunday. I also knew it would likely be crowded at the store because it's a week before the start of the school year. All I had to do was periodically during the week pull out his socks and get him used to wearing them a bit again. Bring the sneakers out of the laundry room and remind him that he has shoes OTHER THAN his Thomas the Tank Engine crocs. That probably would have been enough to get us started. But I didn't. I forgot my own advice, AGAIN. And another "normal" activity became an ordeal.

So, once again, I need to remember, PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!


  1. While preparation is crucial, sometimes, even if you're totally prepared, things don't always go smoothly. The shoe thing for us used to be brutal. We did the best we could and prepared as best we could but sometimes, out of no where, the meltdown would just happen. If you find one of those little labels that let the staring crowd at the mall know it's autism and not a bratty kid tantrum, let me know. I've been looking for them for almost 12 years now.

  2. coming prepared doesn't always help either---- we had a massive event at a picnic last week--- I STILL have a scar on my shoulder from being bitten--- by my NON Autistic child! The one with autism set her off! ACK!

    I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN about needing a label or sign for your child--- I'm SICK of people saying to me after the fact or the next time they see me what I should be doing differently as a parent to avoid meltdowns. Or my personal favorite " My ____ would get a POTCH if she acted like THAT!" um, yeah, I don't potch my children--- even if they weren't special needs. Maybe that's why my children will still love me when they're adults and yours won't want to speak to you anymore. (would love to say that to her face.... lol)