anxiety,  autism,  family,  travel

New York Trip Part 1: If we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere

I feel like Sinatra’s words couldn’t be more appropriate for today’s blog post—in the most literal sense. When we started our Spring(ish) Break: New York Tour we knew there’d be some hurdles to navigate. Steve chose New York as our spring break destination months ago and we knew that despite the hurdles, there were things working in our favour. Steve’s sister Heather lives in New Jersey, just an hour’s train ride into the city. Steve and I both have been to New York before and we figured we’d be able to pick out some things our kids would enjoy seeing. But still we anticipated a few hiccups and knew with autism there could be something we’d inevitably miss and fail to plan for. Here’s a quick little summary of how it all went down—at least the “getting to New York” part.

J letting me know he’s going to handle the exits.

1) The infamous 1-94 interstate exits. You know the ones. 55 and 67. The ones that cancelled our Minneapolis State fair trip. The ones that J hovers on panic attack when we drive to his Willmar XC meets. Our flight to New York was out of the Twin Cities which meant we’d have to take 1-94 East and pass those darn exits. Luckily, J’s special ed teacher offered to help us by writing a social story for him specific to our New York trip. She introduced it at the beginning of the week and the first day was rough. He had a rough time processing the news that he’d be going to the cities to fly to New York (I think he was banking on the Winnipeg or Fargo airports). But the next day he recovered quickly. I had everyone talk to him about how awesome he handles those exits for XC (including the track coach—J loves to talk about his bad days and grievances with his coaches). Saturday morning he passed those exits full of anxiety but handled them like a champ.

J getting ready for the exit (he chews and picks his fingers like crazy when he’s bored or anxious)
Did it!

2) The weather. This was the biggest unexpected hiccup for the adults. After managing (what we thought would be) the biggest hurdle of the trip, we arrived in Minneapolis and killed an hour or so at IKEA (we wanted to get there early because we knew the weather might be bad on our drive down) and headed to the airport only to find out that our flight was cancelled because of the potential blizzard conditions. A BIG INTERRUPTION IN THE ROUTINE/PLAN. If you know autism, it’s all about sticking to the plan. YOU STICK TO THE PLAN NO MATTER WHAT. But to our surprise, J (and W) just rolled with it. They sat in the airport for 30 minutes (typically J has no patience unstructured chunks of time) with their luggage piled around them until Steve could get us a hotel. We hung out at the Mall of America for an hour or so to kill time (we’re really not a mall family, but everyone had a good attitude about it). Then we went back to the hotel and everyone went to bed really early (8 pm early) because we had to get up at 3 am to catch our new flight. And everyone woke up at 3 am without complaining.

My feelings too when I realize the advertised cinnamon bun isn’t the actual size

3) Daylight saving. It was only about 2 weeks ago that Steve and I realized that we would be arriving in New Jersey the day of daylight saving. I think most of us agree that daylight saving is dreadful—especially when we have to jump forward and lose an hour of sleep. But historically, in this house, daylight saving can be a nightmare. That one little hour of sleep (gained or lost) can throw J off for a week or two. And since there was absolutely nothing we could do about it, Steve and I decided we’d just have to see how it all played out.

So with our flight delayed almost 12 hours, sleeping in a hotel, getting up at 3 am, and losing not one, but 2 hours (one to Eastern time, the other sacrificed to the god of daylight saving) our internal clocks were so confused. And it didn’t matter. Maybe it was all the serial disruption to time and plans that did the trick, but for J, probably for the first time ever, daylight saving had no effect on him.

Empty Sky Memorial, Liberty State Park, with Heather and her family.

4) Barely making our connection. Because of the weather conditions, we were delayed on the tarmac for our 6 am flight for an hour and a half. Once again, I thought this would be the end for J (When he was in grade one we travelled to Disneyland and were delayed on the tarmac for 30 min to de-ice the plane. Panicked to be on a plane and strapped in a seat and not going anywhere he let out the biggest, blood-curdling scream and I was sure we were going to be kicked off the flight) but once again, J was able to handle his stress. He just plugged into his ipod and waited patiently. Maturity? Experience on planes? Both? I’m just glad he handled it. They were holding our plane when we got to Boston and we had to run like crazy to the other side of the terminal to make our flight. Since I was in the very back of the plane and last to get off, Steve had to run ahead with the kids. The kids boarded on their own so Steve could make sure they held the gate open until I could get there. It was nuts.

No, we don’t have another kid. That’s just J and W’s cousin J 🙂

5) We finally had some downtime after the whole travel ordeal. We finally made it to New Jersey and Heather’s family took us to Liberty State Park so we could check out the New York city skyline. It was foggy but it was absolutely wonderful to have finally ARRIVED and be able to walk around and enjoy being at our destination.

So yes, getting to New York was kind of a thing. Rough enough when you don’t have autism. Even more rough when you do. But somehow–and I really don’t know how–J managed to handle his emotions and anxiety through the whole thing. Panic attack triggers, schedule disruptions, lack of sleep, and more. He did it.

He even made it through two days in New York city (including our family getting separated at Grand Central Station) but I’ll get to that part next week.

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