My big girls have their school concert on two separate nights. Which is really annoying, but anyway. The first night, I could not attend, as I had my own graduation from a cake decorating course I have been taking for the past year or so. But hubby went, and the little ones stayed at grandma's. On the second night, I went and took the little ones with me......
The whole time I was wondering how Little Man would go. Noise is not an issue for him normally, so I had no concerns there. My concern was that he would not - could not - sit still or remain in close proximity for the duration of the concert. That he would try to abscond, meltdown because he is not allowed to run, climb on people, etc. Sometimes, for reasons that are obscure to me, he refuses to enter a building, point blank, and forcing him to do it just results in a meltdown.
After dinner, we loaded up into the car to go.
If you are regular reader of my blog, you might have noticed by now that I tend to talk my son through things in the hours or minutes immediately prior to the event, and even as we go through it. Trying to prepare him earlier is pointless, as he has no conception of time and struggles to understand anything that is not concrete to him anyway. So as we are preparing to leave, I am preparing him for what we are doing and where we are going. I don't know how much he takes in, but I am convinced that this sort of preparation has helped greatly on more than one occasion.
He was quite happy to climb into the car for a little excursion. I don't know where he expected to be going, but I tend to think he understood that we were going somewhere a little out of the ordinary, because he was quite compliant and seemed pleased to be getting out somewhere. He knows where the school is, but we didn't park at the school. Way too packed. Nowhere I'd find a spot. So we parked at the shops close by and had to walk a few hundred metres to get there. Unfamiliar.
We put Mr Monkey on, popped the Baby Miss into her stroller and off we went. He didn't try to abscond, but he wasn't always paying attention to the direction we were walking in, and sometimes tried to walk a different way. Bringing him back was not really an issue, but he didn't want to hold my hand. So all that, combined with him dawdling and stimming all the way, made for slow going.
We finally arrived at the school hall, and chose to sit at the back, close to the doorway. Any autism mum who reads this will immediately understand why. But for the sake of explanation, we like to be near the door in case it is necessary to leave the area quickly if there are any meltdowns. There were no chairs provided and we were not allowed to bring any. So we made ourselves ...comfortable..? on the floor. Hm. Might be okay for the school kids, but I know my 33 year old bum can't take that for too long! No use complaining. We had brought a couple of cushions, so I guess it was bearable. We parked ourselves and waited for the concert to begin.
Little Man had been quite happy to come along with us the whole time, but sitting down? Uh-ah. Normally, he would circuit the perimeters until he was comfortable with his environment. But being restricted by Mr Monkey, my boy had to content himself with standing up and visual-stimming off the boundaries and windows in the hall. I didn't have a problem with this. He needs to process his surroundings, and he is not annoying anyone. Once that was done and he was comfortable with the environment - which was quickly filling up with people - he decided that bungee-running to the end of Mr Monkey's lead, and pinging back and landing in mummy's lap was the way to pass the time. I briefly considered the iPad hidden away in the baby bag just to my right.....
For the next 30 minutes or so, I had nearly 20 kilos thrown at me over and over and over. I am sure he nearly broke my legs a few times, even with arms out ready to catch him and bounce him like a baby on my lap.
First song was done. Applause. My son nearly jumped out of his skin. The look of panic and fright on his face from this sound he wasn't expecting was really saddening for me. He tried to run, but then turned around seemingly to find mum instead. Yet he wouldn't come to my arms for comfort. It was like he didn't know what to do with himself. Thank God, this did not trigger any meltdowns. He eventually settled down again.
Fortunately, after some time, he decided he had had enough bungee running, and slouched on my lap instead - head against my shoulder and legs spread out over mine - and set to madly chewing on the plastic baby toothbrush I had brought for him. I have never seen him chew and lick so madly in my life. Very glad I remembered to bring that, or he might have been licking his shirt, the pram, my hand, anything he could get to!
Second song done. More applause. Same reaction. Only he tried to jumped out of my lap cat-style! He tried, but all he managed was to stand up, turn around, and then freak slightly before I could coax him back to my lap. This happened after every song, even when I tried to warn him when it was coming. I began to worry that it would elevate his anxiety levels too much and set him off. Just as things were looking borderline, and I began to look at the door in anticipation, something seemed to switch for him....
Instead of starting so violently at the applause, he simply looked up, shifted in my lap a little and was content to let me squeeze him and talk him through it. Now this is an improvement!
About 20 minutes before the end, Hubby arrived. And just in time too! Little Man had decided he was rested enough and it was time for more bungee landing on mum! Daddy blessedly took him off me so I could sit for the last few minutes in peace. Good timing, because it was now my Big Miss's turn on the stage!
There she was, precious and all grown up in her hip-hop dance costume - and right in the centre of the stage! She did very well, and I couldn't have been more proud. This means a little more to me than it normally would, because Nejla is very shy. Being the centre of attention is a thing both coveted and feared by her. Well done honey.... so proud of you :)
Last song done. Applause. He didn't even flinch. Wow!
Concert was done and it was time to go. We did it! Hooray!! I am amazed at how well we got through it, and really pleased to see how well Little Man adapted to his circumstances.
...And we didn't even have to pull out the iPad :)