Extremes of emotions on holiday

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We all experience emotions all the time. And children with autism are no different. But where we can usually calm ourselves down when angry, understand the need to slow ourselves down and end a game rather than becoming hyper or even soothe ourselves when sad, this is an area where people with autism can so often struggle. They find regulating emotions so difficult and can often swing from one extreme emotion to the other very quickly leaving everyone around them puzzled and confused.
This week I have seen this become an every day reality in my non verbal son. We have been on holiday this week in a caravan. No matter how hard we try, his routine has had to change. There is no school on holiday and at times this has been a massive challenge for him. He has used the iPad to show me pictures he has found of anything school related in an attempt to question why he isn’t going there. This is not helped at all by the fact the only thing he will ever let us dress him in is his beloved school uniform. He doesn’t ‘do’ holidays. He ‘does’ school. So even in a caravan 50 miles from home he has still been looking for his school taxi and pointing to any similar looking car we pass and screaming.
Every day has been like walking on a tightrope. He doesn’t ‘do’ wind down and chill. He does ‘get up and go’ from the second his eyes open to the second the melatonin finally kicks in and he drops off for a little sleep. And for a non verbal child he can be extremely demanding and loud.
Internet is limited where we are. And boy has he let us know how this has frustrated him. His favourite interests on the iPad are you tube videos of lift doors opening and closing over and over again, and google maps. And he has been most unimpressed that you tube and google do not work as he expects them to. You can’t explain terms like signal or coverage or wifi to him. All he knows is he presses the buttons and mum makes them work. So mum is at fault. And he then throws the iPad at me, scratches me, bites me, hits me and screams. Holiday? What holiday? Autism doesn’t take a holiday.
So you take him out and keep busy. But this isn’t the swimming pool he normally goes to. So you have to literally drag him screaming through the corridor to the changing rooms because he does not understand that other places can also be swimming pools. And he screams at the look of the different changing rooms. And I start to question if all this is worth it. The moaning, the screaming, the ‘challenging behaviour’ seems endless.
But then he gets in the water and immediately changes to the hyper, laughing, splashing, happy boy. Within seconds it was like someone switched my son. From one extreme emotion to the other just like that! And then getting out he switched right back, instantly his body got out that water.
The same with soft play. He loves soft play. But nope, this isn’t soft play to him. Because it isn’t one of the ones we normally go to back home. So you pay money to carry in a screaming five year old while everyone looks at you and quickly turns away. If only this child would wear his autism t-shirt at least now and again. But no, he has to wear his school uniform which just somehow makes it all look worse. It must look like I am manhandling a child on some school trip to the seaside. Who would believe we are actually on holiday trying to have some down time? But once in and he realises that this is a soft play, the tears stop, the flapping and chest beating starts again and he giggles like he is the happiest child you ever met. If only the scratches and pinches he gives me could vanish as quick as his tears!
Going anywhere in the car this week has seen him in default mode of whine. ‘Uh, uh, uh’ has been on constant play since the minute the car pulled up to the caravan park. It is a dull moan of wanting attention, of saying in his own way that things are not ‘right’ for him, of making it clear he isn’t happy. But the whining barely stops. So you would think this child was hating being in the caravan on holiday.
Yet one minute later he is out on the decking flapping, running up and down, laughing hysterically at a dog barking or cow mooing. Or waving his arms in complete ecstasy because he is being pushed in a swing. There is no in between just now.
So I feel like I am on that swing too. Except it never stops. We have the highs of laughter, hyper ness and flapping and chest beating followed immediately by screaming, moaning, scratching, kicking, pinching and throwing. We have the sheer innocent excitement of seeing the seaside followed immediately by the danger of him running straight out to the sea. Unless he is strapped in a car seat, buggy or swing there is no sitting down. There is no watching a dvd or looking at books, or colouring in like his twin sister. It’s just all about him. It’s all go. It’s exhausting and draining. For everyone of us.
In fact I need a holiday to recover from the holiday! Autism doesn’t take a holiday. It is extreme one way and extreme the other. Isaac can’t regulate his emotions. And right now I am struggling too. If you asked me how the holiday was going I would have to answer with ‘sometimes wonderfully, sometimes dreadfully.’ If only there was a happy medium. Now that really would be a holiday!

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4 thoughts on “Extremes of emotions on holiday

  1. I find assumptions about autism to be challenging. ‘Well there’s this programme about trains’ …. Sorry, mazes yes, trains no. Or what tv programmes does he like …. He hasn’t watched tv for over 4 years!
    All autistic children are different, and that is what makes them fabulous.
    I sat through the meeting about my sons residential trip, when all parents were told not to send their child with any food, as there was lots there. At the end I smiled sweetly, went up to the teacher and said that my son would be going up with food, though it wouldn’t be sweets and chocolates. Nope, plain biscuits, a packet of croissants, and a baguette. He’s different and that’s fine.

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  2. My very verbal, but severely autistic teenage son, can now put words to how holdays are for him! We change the routine (holidays are more ‘relaxed’); we eat at different times, different food, in different places; there are different noises, smells, sights & sounds, etc; the place where we stay has a different layout, different furniture, in fact in a caravan, the floor moves, there’s no upstairs & downstairs & you come out of your room into the kitchen; and worse of all, he has to sleep in a different bed! For YEARS we have tried to adapt, amend or create some semblance of ‘family’ holiday, including booking certain cottages, visiting the same place, visiting earlier in the year, holidays at home and/or packing his bed! Praying you will find your own version of holiday, somewhere!

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  3. What a great Story brought tears to my eyes at times Also made me chuckle at times I too have a child with Autism and yes you are right Autism doesn’t take a holiday in fact for a long time we didn’t go on Holidays because Autism doesn’t take a holiday it was too stressful in fact it still is even short breaks are the same so for a while now we are doing day trips and yes the same happens but the next day we are back home and everything’s back to normal and we found this causes us all less stress Thank you for sharing your story with us it really helps to know we are not alone Bless you hope you have recovered now Big Hugs to you all 🌼🌼🌼🌼🌼🌼🌼🌼

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