As parents of an autistic boy, one of our biggest learning curves was knowing how to support our son, through the unknowns of autism.

The unknown. The obscure behaviors. The inability to communicate in terms which we were accustomed.

Being nonverbal, his manner of communicating was demonstrated by his actions. This we know now, we didn’t know back then.

In 2013, we were on the back end of a 19 day, 7 state road trip, nearly 4500 miles total. Visiting family and catching Antique Archeology shops on each leg of the trip;  Le Claire, Iowa & Nashville, Tennesse.

The last night of hotel staying turned out to be one we’d never forget.

My husband took the boys swimming at the hotel pool. They had lots of fun!!

Not much different than most families, right?

Swim, sleep, eat, swim again maybe, go visit the sites and get back on the road. That was our plan.

As we were leaving the hotel and thanking the staff for a nice stay, B  plopped down on the luggage rack and refused to get up.

No amount of coaxing, rationalization, even bribing was resolving the situation. We were at a standstill for what seemed like hours.

To shake off the pure stress of it all, I often think to myself.. well, guess we’re exhibiting a bit of autism acceptance today, welcome to our world!

At our wit’s end, we called our son’s BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst). Before we knew it, we’d gotten him in his car seat, secure… or SO we thought. We turned onto the county highway. Reaching the speed limit of 50 mph….

ALL OF A SUDDEN-  B was in my lap and trying to open my car door!

The amazing strength and determination he displayed were beyond anything I’d experienced!

We’d never been so scared in our lives!!!

After what seemed like an eternity, my husband was able to pull the car over and stopped in a safe place.  After another frantic call to his BCBA, we realized we were next to a Burger King. B LOVES his french fries, so we told him if he showed us he could be calm for 15 minutes, he’d get french fries.  This eventually worked, B got his french fries, and we continued home.

I sat in the back seat wedged between 2 car seats to ensure B didn’t unbuckle himself, and we headed towards home.  He was calm enough for us to stop off at relatives, and he got to enjoy riding on some of their farm equipment.  Our day turned into something we didn’t plan for, but that happens a lot for families who have autistic children.

This episode did pass. He managed to emerge and show a smile on the farm, a mere 3 hours later.

No one tells you about this stuff when your kid is diagnosed with autism.

While we only have our families experiences, do other families that don’t have kids with autism have these type of challenges?

I believe many others do. Some face other challenges that we have dealt with or heard of.

I am passionate about researching things to make our lives easier and to make B’s quality of life better.

After a bit of research, we found a seatbelt clip that slid over the part connected to the seat. Once clipped it is secure and no amount of pulling, pressing or otherwise would release it.  It worked for us. The SeatBelt Guard!!! I’ve never been so thankful for a unique little plastic device in my life!!  I was able to utilize our car key to release the gadget.

We also recognized there were sensory and communication issues that we needed to figure out.

  • We introduced a communication device, Speak For Yourself on his Tablet, along with a case with amplified speakers. We partnered with our child study team to provide this set up as an alternative communication device.
  • Introduced noise-canceling headphones that proved beneficial for both boys. We bought 4 pair! One for youngest and one for B. One set for the car and one set for the house! Youngest liked having an option to avoid listening to the crying and screaming.

We didn’t take road trips for a long time afterward. We avoided hotels with pools for a long time.

We requested rooms where we could access without passing the pool.

Now, nearly 6 years later, with our therapist’s guidance, we worked through the challenges and now we can stay in a hotel, not swim, walk by the pool and leave without any behaviors what so ever.

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