Monday, February 15, 2010

Sneathen Adventure

We are home. It is 10:45 am the day after our arrival and Zachary is still in bed. He is exhausted, as we all are, but he is really exhausted. I am reflecting on how much it has affected him, physically and mentally to try something new and I think about Daniel and how much harder it is for him. What does that do to him? How hard is it for him to learn something new, when the rest of us collapse in a heap after putting ourselves out there physically and mentally? It is overwhelming for me to think about.

Backtracking two days. Our family packed up and headed north. Our friends invited us to go to Schuss Mountain in Michigan for a weekend of skiing. It was President's weekend and according to those at the resort, the busiest day of the year for them. I belive it. It was packed.

We arrived late afternoon Friday. We had reservations for tubing at 5:00 pm. After unpacking we headed to our friends condo. This was not enough time for Daniel to settle in. We usually get to a room and he likes to hang out, watch movies and get really comfortable in his space. The problem with that can be that then he doesn't want to LEAVE his space. He doesn't know what's out that door and likes his little hotel room, why leave? Well we were leaving. Right away. He didn't love this idea. But he came along and was griping the whole way. We drove to our friends condo, getting only slightly lost in the complex on the way. This is also not acceptable in the big book of Daniel (bbod) (thanks Aunt Judy!) We made it. Only to get to the condo and have everyone say, "ok, let's go tubing". Again a bit jarring for Daniel. We were telling him these things would happen, but I did not write it down (probably should have) and he seemed a bit confused.

We got to the tubing hill. My thought was this would be sledding at the optimum for Daniel. There was a tow rope, so you hand the circled rope end to the attendant, sit your butt down and he hooks you onto a tow rope. It then pulls you up the hill for a leisurely ride, and pushes you off to the side at the top. You jump on your tube and sail down the hill. It was a blast. No trudging up the hill to the top each time. Here is what Daniel did NOT like about it. These are the things that are hard to anticipate and you have to adjust to on the spot. He didn't like being pulled up the hill backwards on the tow rope. He adjusted that maybe the third time up. When shooting down the hill, I never once did it without spinning around. He did not want to go backwards down the hill. I actually didn't mind it because I wasn't getting sprayed in the face with snow when I was backwards! I believe Todd suggested he go on his stomach, which I would have thought would be uncomfortable and spray snow all over your face. But nope, it worked for him. This is when the tag team parenting is helpful. I would not have thought to suggest that. I guess on his stomach he could change his direction with his feet? I don't know, but it worked and I was happy he was happy! We tubed for an hour, that's what the passes were for and I think the adults were all happy we were limited that way! It was a blast, but we were ready to get warm. Back to the condo.

Daniel survived this back and forth rather well. I don't know if he could have handled it a few years ago. 19 people back to the condo for dinner! I had brought some of his favorite foods, we hung out,he had a quiet place to go to, the kids went swimming! It was all good! Success number 1 complete.

The next day Zachary was signed up for a snowboard lesson. He has never been on a slope of any kind. We went back and forth between skiing and snowboarding. We went with snowboarding. Daniel had been insisting he would ski the whole week, but once we got there he stopped talking about it. I don't know why. Maybe it was the impressively tall black diamond runs in front of the lodge. Maybe it was all of the people skiing around who looked so proficient. I don't know. He can't put it into words. It was overwhelming to ME, so I can't even imagine. I had never skiied in my entire 42 years, so I was feeling a bit anxious myself. For some reason I wanted to give it a go.

My friend Jodi, who I've talked about before, hadn't skiied in 20 years. Todd was willing to hang with Daniel while Zach was in his lesson, so Jodi and I pushed each other to sign up for a lesson. I was proud of us! We had a wonderful 60 something year old instructor named Dave who proved to have the patience of a saint. We spent the hour with him, bought lift tickets and hit the slopes. Zachary and I were pretty frustrated but powered through as best as we could. Daniel continued to watch from a far. We had many conversations about the whole adventure. He seemed to be watching intently and listening as we talked about ski lifts, "magic carpets", and the hills. He took it all in. He decided that "next time" he might go a step further than passive observer who eats snow.

The thing I was the MOST impressed with for Daniel was Saturday's dinner. Most everyone else there would not even know what it took for him to get through it. Dinner for 19, in a crazy crowded (huge) room. In the beginning a musician was playing, there were tv's on everywhere and the noise level was high. We chose a strategically placed seat with his back to the big screen tv. We tend to choose restaurants that are FAST. This was not fast. 19 people in a jammed packed restaurant can never be fast. People were getting up, going to video games, and milling around. This is also not ok in the big book of Daniel. According to him you stay put. We work on this all the time, but he was continuously asking where everyone was going and when would his food get there! After a while he settled in. I'm not sure how long we were there but I'd say almost 2 hours. The promise of swimming after might have helped pull him through. All of the kids got their suits and headed to the pool! I watched from the side, chatting and possible having a cocktail or two...

Todd suited up on Sunday and I hung with Daniel, packed up our room, and had coffee in the lodge. All much more up my alley than skiing down the slopes. (or falling as the case may be) Zachary and Todd did some runs together. Daniel and I watched. Todd's 20 years between skiing seemed to disappear as he went down whichever run he chose (some things are not fair!) and we had a great weekend. I think it will be better for Zachary and I to get a bit more proficient, then when Daniel decides to dive in, we can be a bit more helpful and supportive.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. Daniel didn't ski but there were lots of great activities that he could be a part of. Maybe, I'll improve my skiing? Maybe not. Maybe next time Daniel will give it a go. We so so appreciated being included in the weekend. Another Sneathen adventure is in the books!


annie said...

Geez, I'm proud of ALL of you. This is one of the times when you describe Daniel's preferences and I think "I get that..." I like to settle into a hotel room, I don't like noise and crowds and milling around. I'm not sure how I feel about going downhill backwards in a tube. :) This was a great story, and pretty hopeful, don't you think?

Michelle S. said...

Annie- Yes, I think most people can identify with these things. They are just really really magnified for him. So some people think, "I'm that way too" but they aren't, it's just times 100 for him. The fact that it's relatable is helpful though I think...

It is hopeful, I 100% believe putting him out there to try new things is part of what has gotten him so far. You have to experience life to figure out how to navigate it. If you are hiding at home, you aren't going to learn this stuff in a social skills group (althought that's helpful!)

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

19 people! That's so amazing that Daniel did well with it. Sounds like a pretty fun weekend (except for the falling)!