0

The Sri Lanka Diaries

Christos, Dad and I are in Sri Lanka for 13 days. Note that this is the first time Christos has travelled without my mum. The prospect of travelling with an autistic adult who towers over both his father and sister was daunting. However, the only restless Pereras were the neurotypical ones. Christos cruised through the airport security, the airplane, the food, the transit and the overnight flight.

He adjusted to life in Sri Lanka just like a true traveller. All he asks is what the schedule is for the day. At our number one hotel we had a suite, a pool and 3 buffets. The staff were curious about Christos and keen to help in any way possible. By day two, everyone knew who he was. They knew what breakfast he liked and what ice cream he preferred. They even learned that ‘Efharisto’ means ‘thank you’ in Greek. Christos has no reservations when it comes to being in Amaya Lake. Even though it’s been 7 years since he last visited, he remembers it as if he has been there this whole time. His memory is impeccable.

The way of life, the culture is the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. Everyone is smiling, everyone wants to talk, help, and everyone stares. I can speak for Cypriots and Brits when I say that staring is not ‘polite’ and not encouraged. However, here it’s unavoidable. Staring here is not malicious because if you have an issue with someone you will sort it out immediately. Staring is education. It’s a revelation how little it bothers us here in comparison to Europe. The chasm between these two continents is evident in its people.

We talk about how lucky we are with Christo every day. There are families that can’t even dream about a vacation with autism. Yet, here we are. Talking to people who don’t know the word and explaining to them what this spectrum is all about. We are literally walking, talking, breathing awareness. Just by walking in a room Christos captures their attention, he evokes questions and he bestows new knowledge. This information will be talked about with friends, with family, and it will change someone’s life; maybe not here, maybe not now but one day.

I’ll go into the details of this adventure in later posts. For now, let me just remind you to respect and understand each other. We are only here for a limited time, and in that time we can make wonders happen. Remember that you may be the missing piece to a puzzle we all want solved.

Happy Holidays from the Pereras.

Advertisements
2

Making Routine Flexible c) Chris & his Nan routine

Chris loves spending time at his grandparents. You know how grandparents give you sweets when your parents aren’t looking, rub your back when their back hurts more than yours ever will, buy you 2-3 presents at a time? Multiply that by 100, that’s our grandparents. Spoiled rotten he is when he’s there..but then again, so am I.

So, over the years the relationship has been a bit rocky as he would throw tantrums when we went, he would’t let them hug him or kiss him, they wouldn’t know about a new habit he’s picked up etc. This is yet another example of how they are adaptable, persistence and consistency are key.

We used to only go to my nan for visits. Then when both my parents were at work and i was at school. Then he went to school so back to just visits. Now, he has almost a daily interaction with them, which he loves. His routine is to go there and have his tea, while he plays – for hours – with whipped cream. It’s something about the texture that he just loves. Then he’ll have dinner, then he’ll maybe have a nap and then cream again. His routine there used to involve watching cartoons, or going to the shop with granpa. He’ll still do those things, but over the years his routine changes, it goes on for a couple of years and then changes again. For example, when he was younger my dad bought him a trampoline so big, it could only be set up in my nans garden. His routine then would be tea, trampoline, maybe a movie, dinner; maybe an ice ream, maybe a walk. He learned to adapt.

When we warn him that nans is just a pit stop, he understands it now, he doesn’t need the routine as soon as he walks through the door. We can incorporate activities and visits during that time and he will gladly go along with it as long as he has warning, it’s on his schedule, he knows the time and he gets to do the things he wants to do as well – if we have time.

The great thing about flexible routine, or pre-planned spontaneity is that it works for parents and children. It’s the best way to avoid tantrums, and to drag them out of their own little universe. Plan your activities, but every time incorporate something new, and they’ll get used to it. Keep the basic routine that keeps them calm and happy in the background, just so they have a safety net but insert a new activity – however small – so that they adapt to the routine of doing something new every time.

Autism is like a trampoline, everything is up in the air and you never land in the same place twice. It’s a world full of surprises, uncertainty. Yet once you work on it, hard work becomes fun and it makes you smile. There’s an easy way and a hard way but either way you’re on it, so embrace it.

When was the last time you were on a trampoline?

2

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.

photo 1

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.