Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How I Spent My Summer -part 2

Part 2 -the extra guest.

Some of the time, for the paper, I write about things which interest me. I wrote a piece about vacationing with special needs kids a few weeks back. I am helping to raise a special needs child (though honestly, my wife does most of the real work). Vacationing in my family has been trying. Go figure why I was curious.

Most of the people I spoke with had Down's syndrome kids, which is entirely a different set of problems. Down's kids often have very serious physical ailments to go along with a mental impairment, and not to be unkind, but a Down's child is visibly different than other children. My daughter is a very bright-eyed and pretty young woman. She's almost as tall as I am. It's hard to call them children when they get to be that big. She's an autistic, which isn't always easy to spot casually.

My article was only slightly useful to someone like me.

I don't know a parent with an autistic who doesn't have horror stories about reactions from the public. People (and idiots like Michael Savage) want to assume the kid is a brat and you're a lousy parent because your child is behaving like a cranked up lunatic in a public place. No matter how much you plan or prepare, there really isn't a way to know whether your kid is going to have a meltdown. The staring, the little comments and snarky remarks are bad and every now and again you get some asshole who wants to give a lecture.

My daughter is a big fan of travel. She obsessively collects data on hotels, motels and attractions in the places she hopes to visit. She's gotten more into this after we added the internet at the house. It's really pretty extraordinary.

It would sound like a vacation would be a great thing for her, except she needs a lot of space to feel comfortable. She likes to spread out. You can't really do that in any vehicle smaller than a school bus. Riding in a car filled with other people, their sounds, their smells and their need for boundaries is taxing for her. It screws with her senses. Her reaction is predictably awful.

She's been under more stress than normal lately, too. Her creepy biological father has returned again and the whole house is thrown further out of sync than usual. Really, I wish this guy would move to Australia or Antarctica.

My daughter has a couple of imaginary friends. The most dominant of them is Flappy, whose body is my daughter's right arm and hand. Flappy speaks in a grating voice and likes to entertain. She is my daughter's defender, advocate and also an instigator for some of her less amusing ideas. She likes to talk to strangers, likes to offer running commentary about me, and likes to poke and tickle her brothers.

It's a pretty fucked up world, I think, when you don't approve of your kid's imaginary friend.

Flappy spent almost the entire trip with us. She was in the car almost non-stop on the way down and on the way back. I have little memory of a time when she was silent for longer than a couple of minutes. Sitting in the passenger seat, riding while my wife drove, her squeaky little voice droned on and on and on. Flappy would not go away no matter how many times we asked or demanded.

Flappy went along whenever we tried to get something to eat or tried to buy groceries, pretty much torching any pleasure in dining out or dining in. She was out in the yard with us while we pitched horse shoes. In the house, Flappy shepherded the other characters from my daughter's imaginary menagerie out onto the center stage. There was Flapapino and Uncle Boob. Both were pretty terrible, though not as annoying or outright disturbing as Flappy. At her best, Flappy is a shrill cartoon. At her worst, she reminds me of Tony, Danny's imaginary friend from The Shining.

Oddly enough, Flappy didn't seem to come along much for the trips to Blackwater Falls or to Wildlife Center. She might have been directed to watch the car.

1 comment:

eclectic guy said...

You must have the patience of a saint sometimes.