Traveling with a Child with Autism

My son was only 5 months old when we took a 1-hour and 20-minute flight to Manila and then a 2-hour international flight. I don’t remember him ever crying on the plane.

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For the next five years, we flew an average of 8 flights a year, and though there were a couple of times he did not want to sit during takeoff or landing, most of the time he behaved himself well. The bigger he is getting though, the more worried I become about travelling with him because of how he behaves, not in the plane, but in the airport where he loves running around. But so far, for the past 9 years, I have always been grateful at the end of each trip that both of us made it to our destination safe and sound.

Going through security check

I can’t remember what year the pat down at the airport that we often go through started, but when it did my son who, back then (ages 4-7) was easily scared by strangers who tried to touch him, would scream and try to run when an officer approached him. A couple of times, a supervising officer yelled at me to hold my son and calm him down even after I explained that he was autistic. That was 4 or 5 years ago, and the officers doing the security check have since become more understanding and crouch down to my son’s eye level and do the check while I rhythmically say “pat, pat, pat, pat” with him. Whew.

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In December last year, we took a train to another city and also took the subway several times which meant going through security checks several times. By the time we had to take a flight home, he had gotten so used to the pat down that it didn’t bother him anymore.

Practice makes perfect.

Gadgets and toys

Unless he is very sleepy or very tired, my son would never sleep while traveling. He likes being in a car, train, bus or plane and look outside the window, singing. But if there is nothing interesting to see, then that’s when he asks for the iPad. I always make sure the gadgets are fully charged whenever we travel because some planes still do not have power outlets/USB ports in the seats.

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My son always needs to have something in his hands to play with and always wants to be chewing or biting something. He started biting his hands and fingers about a year ago, so we bought him chewy tubes which have been a blessing. Fidget spinners have also been a huge help in keeping his hands busy.

These three things I never forget to bring when I travel with my son: iPad, fidget spinner and Chewy Tubes.

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Each child on the spectrum has his/her own specific needs, and perhaps your child does not need a fidget spinner or a chewy tube, but the point is, apart from packing food, always remember to pack something to keep your child occupied. Traveling with a child on the spectrum does not have to be stressful, and it is good to let them experience traveling as often as possible so they will get used to it. The only way they will learn to cope with the difficulties of traveling is by actually doing it. It may be stressful for the family at first, but in time, the child will learn. It needs a lot of patience, but things will be better.

Experience is key.

Keeping the child at home to avoid embarrassment is not helping anyone, especially the child with special needs.  

Optimism

Took my son to the beach last weekend

I had planned to let my son stay with us in China for a month in January but disappointed by my husband’s busy schedule at work, I decided to bring my son home after two weeks. Looking back, I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life — a blessing in disguise. I don’t know how I would have handled the situation if I and my 9-year-old son with ASD were stranded in China or quarantined!

As it is, we have a longer break from work which means longer time spent with my son, but my husband is all alone in our apartment back in China. I try not to worry but can’t help when I read the news or hear about what’s happening from people who are in the country.

Still I’m optimistic that there’s an end to this, and it will end soon.

I am hoping and praying for it, especially because the people I am praying for do not believe in a power stronger than they are.

So much has happened in the weeks I have not posted on my blog, some I am so eager to share but can’t find time to write as I am busy being a full-time mom. I look forward to writing again and also reading posts from blogs I follow, but right now it is so difficult to find time when I’m home and fulfilling my roles as mother, sister and aunt. As always, family comes first.

I hope you are doing well. Thanks for visiting my blog.

LAPC: Nostalgic

Kempinski Hotel, Xiamen

Last night, for the first time in a long, long time, my husband and I went out to attend a party. This time it was at the Kempinski Hotel. It felt good to go out again and relive those evenings many years ago when we used to go out with friends more often without worrying about adult stuff.

But those night outs aren’t what I’m nostalgic about.

It’s Christmas. Kempinski had nice Christmas trees both in the lobby and outside the hotel, and I felt like a kid again excited about Christmas!

Kempinski Hotel, Xiamen

And Christmas always brings me back to my childhood when our Christmas tree was small and simple and the Christmas presents we got from our parents were not expensive, but we had the tradition of getting up at dawn to go to Mass at 4:30 in the morning (Misa de Gallo, literally Rooster’s Mass). Yes, you read that right. 4:30 in the morning which meant waking up an hour earlier before that to wash up and have something hot to drink!

You would think we were unhappy to be woken up that early, but we were actually pretty excited to hear our mother whispering our names to wake us up.

Christmas tree in our house in the Philippines. Picture taken by my sister

We then walked to church (a 10-minute walk from our house) and would see other churchgoers walking. During Mass, my sisters and I often dozed off especially during homily, but would once again perk up just before the singing of the Lord’s Prayer as it meant close to Communion and the end of the Mass.

After Mass, we would walk to the bakery and buy pan de sal for breakfast.

Life was so simple yet we were happy.

If only I could be a child again, and have my parents worry about things that only adults worry about.

Nostalgic.

Tiny Christmas tree in my apartment in Xiamen

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

Time and Memories

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I checked the date today and realized I had only been back from home for a week. It feels like I had not been home for a month and missing my son so bad.

Is it time that plays tricks on us, or is it our brain?

Sometimes a memory comes into mind, and I would feel it happened just yesterday. Other times I would feel it happened a lifetime ago.

Sometimes I wish I could relive a memory, not just recall it. Like how my son as a toddler, looked at and listened to me when I sang to him, as if I was the most entertaining person in the world, and he was my number 1 fan. Or how he would stop playing and run to me to hug me while I was busy in the kitchen.

Other memories I just want to erase, the same way you highlight a text you’re typing (Ctrl-A) and then press delete. Save. That quickly. But the irony is, the more you want to forget something, the more it rankles in your mind. Memories like these are hard to forget. Is there ever a way to forget?

 

T.

 

 

Christmas in November

It’s Christmas in the Philippines! Well, it’s been Christmas in the Philippines since September. It’s the biggest and most anticipated holiday in my country. Countdown begins in September and ornaments and Christmas trees aren’t put away until early January on the feast of the Three Kings.

Arriving at the airport after a red-eye flight, I was so excited to see all the ornaments and even a Christmas tree!

Another short flight and I’ll be home, and with my family it will really feel like Christmas in November!

Happy weekend!

T.

On Death and Promises

My husband and I have the weirdest conversations between a married couple simply because I am weird. One of the things we talked about a couple of years ago was what would happen WHEN I die (because I have to die first, and I would never forgive him if he dies before me! To which he agrees. He says he would like to be able to give me a proper funeral. This I truly appreciate.)

I told him that at my funeral, he can look around and see who among my friends he can marry. Well, this was too weird for him. (But perhaps he was just thinking my friends would be too old for him!)

When I told my friends and sisters about this they thought I was crazy.

Maybe. But my point is, I would like my husband to be happy when I leave. My only condition is that whoever that woman who can make him happy is, should accept my son like he is her son, because I want my son to be happy too.

Unlike the characters in the Disney movie, “Coco” who feel the need to be remembered — I don’t feel the need to be remembered. It would be nice to be remembered, but I am not sentimental about it. What matters most to me is number 1: my autistic son is taken care of until such time he can look after himself; and number 2: that the people I love will go on to live happy, healthy lives after I’m gone.

The day before my mother died, I saw the look on her face change when my then 13-year-old nephew who is my mom’s first grandchild, entered the room. Her eyes lit up, and there was a fondness for my nephew that was so visible that I, her youngest child, felt a little jealous even though I was already 44! We all knew she had not wanted to leave yet because she was worried about him. We gave her the assurance that we all would take care of each other.

I have tried to keep that promise.

I hope that when it’s my turn to go, I would get the same promise that my son will be taken care of. And that they will keep it.

🙏🏽

T.

———

Sonnet 71 by William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead

Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:

Nay, if you read this line, remember not

The hand that writ it, for I love you so,

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,

If thinking on me then should make you woe.

O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;

But let your love even with my life decay;

   Lest the wise world should look into your moan,

   And mock you with me after I am gone.