“When I asked H to help me with packing today… he got all excited. Turns out he though I asked him about “hacking”… Love that kid! And Yay!! Work at SFU [working at the university] is done – so I am now on HOLIDAY!!!” July 19, 2012
That is how our trip started out… and yes… we did get all-packed and all-aboard and flew a way down south to just north of Puerto Vallarta for two (you read that right) weeks!
So… when we were planning the trip I had kind of loosely imagined that H would have the opportunity to really connect with some kids as I knew that this time of year our destination would be also be the destination of, primarily, Mexican families. I had also imagined that any social processing challenges might be assumed to be a language difference and that this would potentially level the playing field for him. I know… I’m just a tad diabolical in my thinking!
It’s not easy to be almost 14… and not a part of the neuromajority. At 14 – it is typical that the focus is so much on fitting-in… and naturally H has some anxiety around this as he is able to see the gap between himself and his non Autistic peers. Frequently partnered with his anxiety are responses and reactions that can appear rather less sophisticated than his peers… and it is apparent by their reactions that his peers realize this as well.
But I digress…
In Mexico the children and entire families were interested in connecting with H. We armed him with a tonne of tiny little Canada pins which he wore a few at a time in his hat. He was able to give these away as an icebreaker which provided a social entrance into meeting others. This strategy also supported his growing social confidence as the reaction was invariably positive!
And too… perhaps it is cultural, but there seemed a difference in the families themselves. Many of the vacationers were there with their extended families: young and old interacting in a way that seemed more inclusive and relaxed than what I see at home. It was a joyful atmosphere where it felt like there was an acceptance that children were to be included in all of their family activities and to do so as kids – rather than conditionally – provided they could channel adult-like behaviours.
Here are some of my favourite moments of our adventure. In some of them H is clearly involved and pleased to be with others… in others he is doing his own thing his own way! We were immersed in a world with a slower pace, limited internet access, reduction in social expectation, an overall attitude of acceptance and inclusion, and lots of time to just be!
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)