As I think everyone who comes to this blog knows, loudness and autism do not go together very well. We are always trying to get Daniel to try new things because I think it is very empowering to him. As he has grown it seems he is more scared of the "idea" of loudness than the loudness itself. This didn't used to be the case, but he is 13 now. He has matured a LOT. I am so proud of him. But trying to get him to do something that he is scared to do, simply takes years. There have been times that we dragged him kicking and screaming into a situation, knowing he'd be fine when he got there (and he always was) but when it comes to most things, we go about it slow and steady. It may take years, but once he does something, he is usually there and will do it again and again.
As you may have guessed by now, we did something today that we have been trying to do again for, I'm guessing, 8 years. Last time we went we didn't get past the concourse of the stadium. He wouldn't even go to the area by the seats. Today we managed to go to an entire, women's college basketball game.
We live in East Lansing, home of Michigan State University. Basketball is BIG here. We have a Big Ten university within walking distance from our house. Along with that comes certain advantages, such has having great sports, arts, concerts and a beautiful campus all at your fingertips. There can be downsides. I don't think there is a resident who doesn't breathe a bit of a sigh of relief every summer when the area empties and all of us 40 somethings and families can reclaim downtown for ourselves for a few short months.
Todd and I have always been huge college basketball fans. It's something we love. Zachary, our 9 year old, is following suit. We are properly brainwashing him. We are both MSU graduates ourselves and except for one rogue member of our families, we all went to MSU. That person went to that other Big Ten university in our state. . . Zachary has no idea how great he has it. He has been to countless men's basketball games and has never sat any higher than about row 11. We have connections, good ones. The tickets usually come and either Todd and I go if I can scramble up a babysitter, or more than likely lately, Todd just brings Zachary and I stay home with Daniel. It's easier that way. I have to say, I'm getting a bit jealous of Zach taking over my tickets, but he loves it too. We ask Daniel if he'll go, we give him reasons why, the things he'll enjoy, like Sparty, the pep band, popcorn (always our bribe). But no. He remembers. He remembers forever.
We tried it once when he was maybe 5. I think it was a woman's game, which are MUCH quieter than the men's but by no means quiet. We walked in the doors of the Breslin Student events center with Daniel 5 and that would make Zach 2. We pretty much turned around and walked out. Daniel's hands were over his ears and he was screaming and crying. That wall of noise hit him and there was NO WAY he was going in. That was the last time he went for a Big Ten Basketball game. He has been in there for a circus. Which I find to be the biggest sensory overload ever, but he was fine for that. If it's something he loves he seems to find a way to power through it. So the key is finding something he'll love about it....it can be tricky but I can find a way. Along with 8 years of patience, a plan, and popcorn (my 3 p plan!)
We had been discussing it again. We had finally got Daniel to say that MAYBE he'd go. This is the opening. Once he allows the possibility, you have an opening. We both thought he was ready. We already decided to try a women's game. If we had to leave it wasn't a big deal, we'd just leave! Todd and I were planning it. Then Thursday I walked into Daniel's swimming and the sign that it was time to proceed came, my friend Amy said, "I have 4 tickets to the women's game on Sunday can you go?" and the deal was done. It was time to launch the plan.
Thursday at dinner I casually said to Daniel that Dad had told me he might be ready to try a game. "yea, maybe". I left it at that.
Saturday, we said that we had tickets and could go. He wasn't so sure. "It's too loud, I can't do it". Yes you can Daniel, it will be fun!!! "It's too loud" So we gave him the list of "things I can do if it's too loud". 1. cover my ears 2. go out to the concourse 3. go to the men's room and take a break (just like at school) 4. go get a drink 5. Last but not least LEAVE . He has to have an option to leave and you have to agree to it if it's requested. Otherwise he'll never try it again and he won't trust you again, and the next thing will be twice as difficult.
So off we went to the game yesterday. Here is a little montage of our afternoon.
He did PERFECTLY. You want to know the kicker? At one point the BELLE TIRE GUY came on the big screen! I didn't even see it! Todd told me after we got home. Daniel just hid behind his popcorn box and Todd was reassuring him that it wouldn't come back? AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT! That is incredible progress! What a great outing. Thanks for the tickets Amy! He's growing up! Isn't it amazing?
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