I am home again, after a few months of continuous travel. The wife immediately deployed me to manage Faith on Sunday as she sat down with the two younger ones for exam revision.
My job was to keep Faith from getting bored, and really, there is only so much an iPod playing her favorite YouTube videos can do. You eventually need to give her a car ride and some outside air.
So I took her for her car ride, and then for a walk at nex mall. My jet-lagged mind decided that was a good idea.
On. A. Sunday. Afternoon.
Yeah, I know right?
She was fine, at first. She dragged me around to see stuff. Then at a particular corner of the mall, I think her autistic senses got overwhelmed and she decided to run into the massage chair shop and sit at the cashier counter.
"So sorry!" I said apologetically to the staff there, rushing to get her out of there.
"不用紧，慢慢来！" (Don't worry about it, take your time!) one kind lady staff said, smiling, as I tried to get Faith out of the chair and out the shop. Pulling her off the chair only made things worse, and Faith lay down on the floor, refusing to budge.
"Come, Faith, stand up. We go home, ok?" I said, trying to coax her off the floor. Then after a few tries, she listened, and got up. She took my hand, and we walked/ran to the entrance. But when she reached the line separating the shop and the common corridor, it was like she hit an invisible wall and she u-turned, making her way back to the cashier's counter.
More coaxing from me, and she finally made it past the force field, dashing away from the shop before I could say thank you to the patient and understanding ladies at the shop. Down the broken escalator we went (nex, when are you going to fix that stupid escalator that is causing a bottleneck every time???), and then out the building to the open space.
I thought we could make it all the way to the open-air car park where the car was parked, but she decided to detour to the playground. And then she sat down at the benches, as if to say, "I am so done with the sensory overload and I am going to sit here and rest."
She shook off her shoes and made herself at home.
Once more, I gave her my inspirational speech that would have moved men to tears and the downtrodden to fight for their freedom. In my most William Wallace voice, I said, "Come Faith, wear your shoes. Let's go home. The car is just around the corner."
She frowned at me, her shoes still off.
"Come Faith, wear your shoes. Let's go. The car is so near and Mommy and your siblings are waiting to go to Popo house. You like Popo's house, right?"
It took a few tries but she finally put her shoes back on, and followed me back to the car.
My friend Robert, whose son is also autistic, commented that his son teaches him every day he is not in control.
I agree with Robert. It is a profound lesson for a control freak like me. Robert went on to say of his son, "If he wants to stay put I sit next to him and stay until he decides it is OK to go."
Like Robert with his son, I have found that getting physical with Faith only makes things worse. It gets harder too, as she is now bigger and stronger.
You also learn to develop a very thick skin, because these sensory meltdown episodes happen in full view of the public very often, so you appreciate it tremendously when people show understanding and acceptance.
We are mindful of Faith's condition when we go out, but at the same time, we do not want to completely shut her away, out of this world. So we try, a little at the time, to expose her to places where there are new people, new noises, and different stimuli, in the hope that her autistic senses learn to cope and adapt.
In the process, we, her family, also learn a little more about ourselves. We learn to let go. We learn there is a new normal. We learn to cope and adapt, to change the things we can change, and to accept the things we cannot.