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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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Making Routine Flexible a) Chris & the Airport

So, for the first part of the routine chapter I chose the airport.

1) Travelling: When we book tickets we inform him immediately. It’s incorporated in his schedule for the year; he is shown pictures and videos of the place so he knows what to expect. He used to be difficult to travel with but now, with the help of his schedule, he enjoys the process. He oversees my mums packing, queues, waits for luggage, leaves his seatbelt on through the flight; he handles flights better than we do! As he grew he became more flexible, so we don’t have to carry around a bag with all his food in it any more (as mentioned in Not everything is black or white). He’s been to  Sri Lanka enough times to know exactly what to expect and to even ask for activities we miss out on sometimes.

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2) Airport trips: One of his favourite things to do is picking up people form the airport or taking them there. We tell ourselves its because he misses us, but we all know its for the bake rolls. Because of his dietary restrictions he’s not allowed gluten (as discussed in Best food critic in town) but he loves bake rolls. My mum has  had a long-term agreement with him that he is only allowed to have them when he goes to the airport. So, it’s on his schedule and he reminds me every time we speak. He walks in, goes straight to the shop, gets his garlicky bake rolls and his lemon Ice Tea and sits outside arrivals waiting (usually for me). By the time I come out the is usually done, and we have our hugs and kisses. Sometimes, he might not be in the mood to but he will anyway because he knows by now that its expected of him.

I know the struggle that families go through to pull their kids out of their comfort zones, to never let them give up, to force them to try new things, and it is something we have done/are doing ourselves, but it might be better to incorporate those changes into their routine. This will make their transition from comfort zone to the ‘new’ a bit less daunting. Add one small new thing every week/month and gradually increase it. Don’t make it into a big deal, don’t put pressure when they refuse to do it the first few times. Be persistent, be consistent; they respond to routine, to repeated actions. So when you introduce a new thing every week it will become part of their general routine. So, one day a week they have in their schedules do something new with a family member; you’ll be surprised how easily they will accept it.

So! Next time you see a kid running around in an airport, a mum frantically running after it, a family with wayyy more bags than members, or a child that can’t seem to settle down on an airplane, be sympathetic, understanding, try and put yourself in their position. Learn about autism, help us make the world autism-friendly.