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Summer Love

This summer has been a tad amazing. Great weather, amazing friends, trips to remember, drama for weeks and a ton of lols. On the penultimate day of summer 2018 my 2018 summer secures a place in the Hall of Summers with a visit from my brother.

He arrived in the UK on Tuesday and will spend the next four days with me in Canterbury/London along with my mum and yiayia (grandma).

So far, their trip has been eventful to say the least.

Larnaca airport prides itself for being an airport for everyone. They have hosted days with people on the spectrum to experience the process of arrival, security checks, boarding and the aircraft. They have special paraphernalia to identify persons who require special assistance and priority service. In fact, ACI Europe awarded Larnaca International Airport with the first prize, among 500 other European airports from 45 states, in the category of “Most Accessible Airport for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility.

Unfortunately, my family had to wait for an hour and a half while COBALT airlines found them three seats together – even though my brother had priority. This lead to them boarding the plane last. I assume that making a 20 year old autistic adult wait at check in for an hour and a half is not part of their accessibility offerings.

However, we recognise the efforts made by Hermes and we look forward to the smoothing out of such issues in the future.

We should also recognise that my brother flies quite often and therefore is familiar with airports. We are unable to fathom what would have happened if this was experienced by another person with autism.

Heathrow accessibility support on the other hand is incredible. They are prepared, organised, and trained to help. They act with professionalism and sympathy to people with hidden disabilities and the elderly. Due to Heathrow’s amazing partnerships with Autism West Midlands, the National Autistic Society and Autism Alliance they are ready, willing and able to assist travelers with cognitive disabilities and offer some comfort to their families.

40371016_479740792503127_4261342490960855040_nI must also mention Qatar’s accessibility support which we experienced in December while we were travelling back from Sri Lanka on our own. We were met at the aircraft door and we were accompanied to the door of our connecting flight. We were so comfortable that we didn’t even notice that we were there for 2 hours. This shouldn’t be a surprise since in 2007, the Qatar representative to the UN, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned,  put forward a UN General Assembly resolution, to create World Autism Awareness Day. This gave way to a day dedicated to raising awareness about ASD across the world.

I hope that Larnaca and Cobalt will continue to learn and adapt, and one day follow the footsteps of these airports and become inclusive and sympathetic to people who require assistance.

He has adapted to the Underground, national rail and bus journeys better than I have after 10 years of living in the UK. I cannot put into words how proud I am of this boy, because he makes everything seem so easy. That’s the thing about autism – you have to know about it to know about it. And that’s why we are moved to tears when international airports, strangers and society make sure that our kids are looked after.

Of course even though my brother is cool AF, under the calmness of our tough exterior we are consumed by hurricanes because we know that the circumstances are not easy. That is why we worry ourselves sick whenever he is on the move, we don’t eat until he’s finished eating and we don’t sleep until he’s dreaming.

But, any autism family will tell you that stress, hunger and insomnia are a small price to pay for knowing your soulmate.

I will keep you updated on our Big Fat Cypriot Weekend which will be the perfect end to the perfect summer.

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Snowman

My Christos went to the mountains.

He didn’t play, or feel it, or build a snowman. He posed for this picture and sat eating his favourite Lays Salt & Vinegar crisps and his favourite Lipton Lemon Iced Tea.

If he could talk, he would tell his mum that he is having a great time. That he is grateful she takes him on day trips and spends her day making this daily/weekly/monthly schedules. He would say how happy he is for letting him sit in the front seat and take complete control of the radio, and say sorry for shouting at her when she tries to sing to her favourite songs or tries to turn it down; it’s just how it sounds. Instead, he gives her a big bear hug, and dances by shaking his head, waving his hands and trying to sing.

The mountain air, the white scenery was beautiful and Christos decided to enjoy it in his own way. Not by running around in the snow and ruining it. It fit perfectly with his Car Routine certain voices, certain notes, a certain volume pleases his sensory overload. Instead of hearing the rushing of cars on the highway, the nooks and cracks of the car, conversations he cannot take part in, he prefers to have his songs on loud and enjoy them that way.

For that short time he hears one thing, he sees only one thing.

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A walk

Chris is in the middle of his ‘Dad Routine‘, he loves walks by the sea, on a sunny day, with daddy.

If he could talk, he would tell his dad that he is having a great time; instead, he shows him with the shaking of his head, and waving of his hands, the excited laugh and his hugs. The fresh air, the sounds, it all helps with sensory overload and sensory sensitivity for your kids; if they are deprived the stimuli of a walk and the sea are endless. If they are overloaded, like Christos, the exercise helps burn off energy, it relaxes the mind and makes him smile. He finds it easier to express his state of mind, his happiness and excitement.

If he could talk he would tell his dad how exciting it is to take that walk – from our house, down that long road, past all the places he knows so well, to the roundabout, past the Aquarium, towards the small church and down to the beach.  The hard pavement turns into dirt, an uneven walk through the nature, with sounds changing from car engines to the rustling of the tree leaves, the colours come alive, the stones, the sand lead to this place. He would explain to his dad how soothing the breeze is to his sensitive, overloaded skin and how the salty smell of the sea has become something that he associates with home. It leads to this place, a scenery of neverending blue pleases his sight, rests his tires eyes which are overloaded every day. The constant, steady movement of the water sends off a vibe that relaxes his mind, and the resounding sound blocks out all the unnecessary sounds from his sensitive ears. For that short time he hears one thing, he sees only one thing.

Happy Sunday.

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Making Routine Flexible d) Chris & his Dad routine

Thephoto 2se two are the men in my life. They are confident, strong fighters who not only have the endurance to plough through their own problems but somehow manage to be my inspiration and driving force in everything I do. It’s hard to put into words how much he’s done for Chris, for all of us. Currently, he’s working 12+ hour shifts as a chef in one of the most popular hotels in our area. I didn’t see him much while I was in Cyprus but I know that everything he does is for us. He worries about our past/present/future, health, happiness; everything.

When Chris got diagnosed he was a rock. Both my parents became glue – they never gave up, they never let go. They did absolutely everything. I never remember them breaking down, or crying; they did it at their own time. No one can understand the pain of a parent of autism. No, not because the child is autistic, but because they are helpless against it. I never remember them falling an picking themselves up; they were always up, ready to go.

 I’ve talked about my dad’s sacrifices, how he developed a whole menu for him in previous posts so, for now, back to the routine business.

If you’ve been reading previous posts, the theme is that an autistic routine is not the same for the entirety of someone’s life. There are people who live their lives following one single regime, because like i said before no two people on the spectrum have the same symptoms.

 When he spends his time with my dad, he likes to play with a box of beans. This is a Winnie the Pooh box containing beans (ranging over the years from black eyed beans, broad beans, kidney beans, lima beans etc). Much like the whipped cream mentioned in previous post the texture, sound calms him down. It relaxes him and he looks forward to it. It’s important to not condemn such repetitive actiphoto 5ons. Autism has certain sensory needs that we cant understand, so when an activity meets those needs its important for us to let them go through with it as  often as possible. Other than that, he likes to play Wii Olympics which he is very good at, he used to play with his (my) game boy, watch cartoons (generally looney toons, Hysteria, Tom and Jerry etc) or Disney films.

They will prepare his meals together, like i mentioned before we have a special recipe for everything he eats and he loves helping and contributing to the process. He can basically make egg and lemon soup, curry, rice, pasta and sauce by himself but obviously we supervise. He also likes all the dishes to be cleaned up, he used to take care of his own but somehow fell out of the habit of doing so. This is one of the downfalls, you juggle so many things with the routine because everything that comes naturally to us doesn’t to him. He has to see it in his programme and if it slips through the cracks a couple of times its a struggle to get it back in. The first day I arrived I asked him to wash his cup – we fought for 5 hours – he did it but i never heard the end of it. When my dad isn’t working crazy hours they do activities together. They take walks to the beach, they use to play catch, tennis, ride his bike, but the one activity that Chris asks for is going to church. There’s a little church near the sea close to our house and my dad does the unofficial maintenance. They go there every week, sometimes more regularly, and I don’t know what it is but he loves it. Maybe its the calm, maybe its the routine.

My point is, you can demolish their wall, you can break their routine, you can make them listen. It takes strength and patience, consistency and persistence; and I know you have all these qualities.

When you see that kid on the playground that seems a tad too old to be there, or uninterested despite their parents every effort, be kind. It takes a lot more effort to ignore autism than to embrace it. Don’t condemn our kids to being alone in the playground. Educate yourself, pass it on to your children. Make our world accessible to everyone.