A couple of weeks ago, my little family of four ventured out for a day-long expedition to Reid State Park.
Like any outing, we do a lot of planning and preparing to ensure to the best of our abilities that Brian will have a fantastic time. Because, we all find it easier to have a fantastic time when Brian is having a fantastic time.
Brian was in his element. We couldn’t keep him out of the water. He was amazed by the size of the waves and laughed with joy running away from the waves and laughed even more when one would catch him off-guard and sweep him off his feet. He watched the seagulls and had a grand time chasing them away from our picnic. He allowed himself to be buried in the sand next to his brother, all while smiling from ear to ear. He transitioned from beach site to beach site without any complaints.
He was the happiest kid on the beach. And if you didn’t know autism or if you didn’t try to talk to him, you probably would’ve never known he has a disability that often hinders him in many, many ways every single day.
We plopped our beach chairs as close to the ocean as possible and we actually sat with our feet up for bits of the day. Times where we can just relax and not be on-guard with every cell of our body are rare when we venture outside the home.
A couple hours in, I turned to my husband and said, “Nature. Nature is the key to Brian’s success with outings. Where he doesn’t have to really deal with society and just wonder in nature, he’s in his element and he can be his truly happy self.”
I know I’ve known this for a long time about Brian and obviously it makes a lot of sense when you understand the nature of autism. But it was the first time I said it out loud.
We can go on hikes, go kayaking, go to beaches, go sledding, go on bike rides, explore state parks, and so forth and generally escape any autism-related breakdowns. Sure, every once in a while we’ll get met with one when it’s time to leave but even then the intensity tends to not be as harsh.
It’s not to say he doesn’t absolutely love amusement parks, zoos, train excursions, and so on. But there’s always added stimuli and social parameters placed on him that almost guarantee a hard day, no matter how much fun the actual outing is.
So it’s a great balancing act. Balancing wanting to give him exposure and wanting him to enjoy a large array of activities but measuring that against the level of anguish it may cause and how much time it will take to recoup from that.
After I came out with my epiphany to my husband, he replied with, “Can you blame him? I don’t want to deal with society half the time either. I’m the happiest on the beach as well.”
And he’s right. So, for now we’ll honor Brian and the majority of our outings will be those in nature- because, honestly, it’s the best for all of our souls.