The Elusive Dipped Cone

Catastrophe: noun. an event causing great and often sudden damage or suffering; a disaster.

This story is not.

It’s been a month, so this event is actually pretty funny to me now (ah, Time, you good ‘ol healer).  When it was happening though, it really sucked.

This is the story of me, my four year-old, and his side-kick autism on an epic journey for the ever-elusive chocolate dipped ice cream cone.  Brace yourselves.

Big C (my son) and I had just finished a phenomenal field trip at the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum.  As a sensory-seeking child with little impulse control and a tendency for aggression, my son was put to the test on this sensory-overloaded field trip.  When the trip was over, I swear to you I could hear a choir of angels singing.  The trip went off without a hitch!

Hoping to capitalize on our good fortune and the beautiful spring day (our first this season), I asked Big C if he’d like to go for a walk and get an ice cream.  Naturally, he said yes, and we were on our way.  I had already taken out my phone and Google-mapped a place a few blocks away.

Oh, did we have fun!  I let Big C hold my phone so he could watch our dot get closer and closer to our destination.  My excitement built along with his.

As we walked, he made sure to ask me (several times), “They have my kind, right?”

“What’s your kind, honey?”

“The white kind, with chocolate on top.”

“Oh, you bet!”  I felt a tug on my heart and sweat beginning to bead on my forehead.  I think I knew what he meant, but I wasn’t sure.  My memory was racing. He liked chocolate-dipped vanilla cones, right? It was tricky because “his kind” could change on a dime, dependent upon his mood.  I had total confidence, however, that this place would satisfy his needs for vanilla ice cream and chocolate.

About fifteen minutes later, we arrived at our location: it was closed.

Due to open in TWO days.

Dammit.

I quickly recovered as I witnessed my son’s crumbling face.  “No, problem!  We will just use our map to find a new place!”  My son smiled, readily agreed, and we soon found ourselves at Kilwin’s, just a few blocks away.

Then events turned ugly.

Immediately, the place had an icky feel to it.  It was small and the smell of fudge was overpowering. Right away, Big C was not happy.  “Oh, look!” I pointed, my voice dripping with forced enthusiasm.  “There are so many choices of ice cream to choose from!”

Big C looked aghast.  “They don’t have my kind!”

“Well, why don’t you try a few samples, and see if you like a new kind?”

He grumbled in response.  Feverishly, I began asking the woman at the counter if we could try the different varieties of vanilla they had.  She agreed, but all samples were met with a look of disdain and growing frustration by my son.

Trying to help, the woman calmly handed him a little spoonful of Mackinac Island Fudge.  “Here, my children love this.”

Big C took a little taste and proclaimed, “That’s disgusting!”  Amid my apologetic looks and rising blood pressure, Big C began pacing back and forth from one end of the ice cream counter to the next, humming in a high-pitched tone.  It was a full-on stimming episode, and I felt powerless to stop it as I tried to ignore the judgmental stares from patrons and workers.

After about five minutes, I couldn’t take it any more and grabbed him by the arm, and as gently (but firmly) as I could, escorted him out.

“Are we going somewhere else for ice cream?”

I was tired and frustrated, so I responded with, “No, we’re out of options.”

Mistake.

The ten-minute walk back to the car was accompanied by his full volume wailing.  I thought the stares in Kilwin’s were awkward.  Bah!  I kept waiting for a police car to pull up beside us and ask if everything was alright.

But then, a glimmer of hope joined our, thus far, failed mission.  Once we got to the car, Big C said, “I’m sorry I disappointed you.”

A direct stab to the heart.

“It’s okay,” I blubbered, hugging him hard.  Then, inspiration struck.  “Hey, why don’t we try McDonald’s?  It’s right on the way home.”

His eyes lit up.  “Okay!”

So we were on our way again, sure to be victorious on our quest for ice cream.

About twenty minutes later, we pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot and, hand in hand, skipped in and ordered.  No problem.

Then another curve ball came.

“Hey, we don’t have dipped cones yet.  They’re seasonal,” the sloppy-looking, presumed-manager, barked from the back.

Noooooooooo! 

I glanced furtively over at my son, his eyes welling with tears.

“Maybe a sundae?” the teenage girl working the register kindly suggested.

That’s not going to work,” I snarled at her.  Poor girl.

But then I realized I had no alternative and, with some convincing, Big C begrudgingly agreed to try a sundae with chocolate syrup.

Once he saw what it was, his eyes lit up.  He took a bite and said, triumphantly, “Mmm…yum!  That’s my kind!”

As he finished his treat, I sat beside him in the booth, enjoying those ten minutes of silence, filled with the occasional sounds of Big C licking his spoon. At that point, I wasn’t in the mood for ice cream.

Besides, McDonald’s didn’t have my kind.

Once home, exhausted, but not willing to neglect the beautiful day, I texted our neighbor with children the same age to suggest a walk to the park.

Her response: Sounds great!  Be home in ten.  At Dairy Queen just finishing up. It’s free cone day.

[insert expletive here].

So, what does your child “need” to have?

Note: this post is part of a blog hop. Click the link below to read more blogs about what it’s like to have a sensory-special kid!

SensoryBlogHop

 

Advertisements

“Oh, he’s just stimming.”

Stimming: Everybody’s doin’ it.

Even you.

I have a confession.  I stim.  Every night.  It calms me.

Before I go to bed, I count off on my fingers how many hours of sleep I will get.  Sometimes, I have to count half a dozen times just to get that sense of peace.

Sound odd?  Maybe a little.  I remember doing this as early as third grade.  I have no idea why I have to do it, just that I have to.

I don’t just stim before bed.  During the day, I find myself chewing on pencil caps, pulling apart paper clips, tapping my foot, organizing items on my desk into straight, perfect lines, all with little to no awareness I’m doing it.

You’ve probably figured out by now what “stimming” is if you didn’t already know.  Short for “self-stimulation,” it’s a type of repetitive movement we do, often to ease tension or anxiety.  Often, it’s subconsciously done.  I’ve discovered the term to be co-existent with neurological disorders such as autism, though it’s certainly not exclusive.  I’ve never been diagnosed with autism, but I certainly can appreciate, and practice, some of its attributes.

For my soon-to-be four year-old son who has high-functioning autism, his stimming is often a survival tactic.  If he can’t do it, he “explodes,” if you will.  I’ve watched him “stim” for years without realizing it had a name and a function.  With his recent diagnosis of ASD, I have been thrown into a world of jargon and acronyms, stimming among them.  Thankfully, with this new vocabulary, I am becoming better equipped to understand and help him.

I’ll never forget a recent visit to the park with my husband, our two young boys, sister-in-law, her husband, and their two young children.  We were on a nature trail with a long, winding wooden fence.  Naturally, Big C (my son with ASD) ran his hand along the railing.  While I knew the possibility of splinters was imminent, I also knew there was no chance of stopping him.  Big C needed to touch that railing.  He needed to run his hand along its splintery edge to better understand his surroundings.  As a sensory-seeking child, he needs to touch his surroundings, to smell them, even lick them (often to his mother’s chagrin) all in order to understand them.

My sister-in-law, a bit perplexed by my son’s behavior, asked why Big C was slowly running his hand along the railing, head down, humming to himself.

My husband merely replied,  “Oh, he’s just stimming.”

The twinkle of pride in my husband’s eye – true understanding and trust between father and son – was simply magical.

While it may have a stigma to it, stimming really isn’t so bad.  In fact, it can be quite therapeutic.

How do you “stim”?

Note: this post is part of a blog hop. Click the link below to read more about what it’s like to have a sensory-special kid!

SensoryBlogHop