Urgency & Uncertainty


Yesterday we decided to take a family trip to the Maine Discovery Museum.  We had so much fun exploring the entire museum from bottom to top.  At the end of our trip  my husband and I split up so each boy could spend a bit more time in their favorite part of the museum.  Corbin  wanted to go back to the Tradewinds Exhibit so he could travel the world some more.  Of course, Brian chose water.

The Nature Trails exhibit  is by far Brian’s favorite part.  In most part due to it’s 20 foot “river”.  You can change the current of the water by building dams and experiment with hydro-power with built-in pumps.  It is Brian’s dream world.

He loves to run to one end and drop a few boats and then flap alongside the boat as it travels by current.  It really gets him so excited.  And the more he loves something, the bigger he falls when it doesn’t go the way he planned.

At first it was going fine.  He was mesmerized watching the boats float along, flapping his hands to show his happiness.  However, I could watch the obsessive-compulsive part of his autism slowly growing larger and larger.

He got into a routine of watching every single plastic boat go along the length of the river.  Yet, there was another little boy playing  with two of the boats.  And he really wanted those boats.  I applied deep pressure and whispered calm words.  On a good day this works.

On a long day he doesn’t process a word I’m saying.

He escalated and his voice got louder.  He started yelling a bit and hitting his hands on the display.  I offered a mumbled apology to the other mother who was trying to make her son give Brian the boats.   I reassured her that he did not need to give my son the boats and it was just hard for him to understand social rules and to break routines.

In situations like this it is best to remove Brian from the scene so we can go to a quiet spot for him to recoup.  So I bent over to pick him up.

Only I couldn’t pick him up.  He was too heavy.  So I took him by the hand and led him out of the Nature Trails exhibit to a quiet space.  He came with me willingly, sobbing quietly.  I was able to calm him using my magic OT (occupational therapy for those of you not “in the know”) tricks.  And we were able to transition out of the museum with a smile.

Looking back to just a few years ago, Brian would have “melted” on the floor in the exhibit.  He would’ve banged his head.  He would’ve really screamed, at the decibel where museum employee’s would come running to see who was hurt.  The meltdown would have lasted for at least half an hour.  It could have lasted longer than an hour.  I most likely would’ve carried him out of the museum to the car still screaming.

I know he has come a tremendously long way since his diagnosis, but still….

It wasn’t until we were in the car driving home that it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I couldn’t pick him up to remove him from the situation.  I carry him all the time, it’s his favorite way to be soothed (and my chiropractor’s favorite way to keep me as a client), but all kids are heavier when they are having a tantrum, autistic or not.

It was a real eye-opening moment for me.  He’s only going to get older and heavier.  That is our reality.  That is every parent’s reality.  But for parents of special needs kids there is a certain air of urgency and uncertainty that comes along with it.


Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.