Before I get to that – the evening after we came back from Atlantis, we decided to give the dining room a try for dinner. I am usually not a big fan of eating in the dining room with DC. The tables are crowded with strangers. I get anxious because DC, although pretty well-behaved in restaurants, can get a little bit loud and chewing with his mouth closed does not come naturally to him, he has to be reminded continuously. When he does remember on his own, he feels the need to point it out to me throughout the entire dinner. He likes to bring a book with him whenever we go out to eat, but at these crowded tables, it is not always possible, there just isn’t enough room.
I was never of the mind that other people should be made to just accept DC’s behavior. Yes, if I am trying to manage the situation I can live without the stares and comments – but letting him do whatever he wants in the name of awareness, is not something I ever subscribed to. I do not believe that every behavior can or should be blamed on his autism – it is never used as an excuse. Letting him run around to other tables, throwing items or any other behavior that may have crept up when he was younger, just because he has autism, was not going to happen. I don’t expect other people in a restaurant, who are out to have a nice time for themselves, to have to make allowances for his behavior. In the past and for the most part, when he was younger, I’ve had to take him outside to calm down if it didn’t look like the situation could be managed inside or we’ve left places altogether.
I agree that we need to raise awareness and acceptance, I do not agree that we have no regard for other people. To me, and this is my opinion only, that is not raising awareness about autism, but causing resentment. He has as much right to go anywhere and participate in anything as everyone else does and as I said, there were and still are times when he does get too loud or gets too anxious and yes, I do believe that some allowances should be made in the name of awareness, just as allowances should be made for young children that don’t necessarily have control of themselves out in public – we know all children will never be 100% well behaved in public, and we know that our children will not, either, but letting them go “hog-wild” – and calling it “awareness” – I just don’t get that.
When we were seated, we were glad to see only 3 other chairs and place settings, this meant (hopefully) only one other family. The other family arrived. They were a very nice couple from New Jersey with a 6-year-old named “Jimmy”. They didn’t seem to be uncomfortable with DC and the very best thing was that Jimmy didn’t seem to be afraid of DC as some young children seem to be!
He put up with him hugging the stuffing out of him and tried to communicate with him. Jimmy’s mother and father didn’t seem to mind being called “Jimmy’s Mom” and “Jimmy’s Dad” whenever DC had something to say to them. DC also had plenty of room for his ever-present book.
After dinner we decided to go to Karaoke or “Okey Okey” in DC-speak. We attended the night before and DC seemed to like it. He even sang “Over the Rainbow”. Again, people recognized him throughout the next day so once again, he was loving his “celebrity status”.
We tried to pick a different song, but there were so many and I couldn’t come up with one off the top of my head that we could find in all of the listings. We also didn’t want to waste too much time getting his name in because although he seemed to like it, I knew he wasn’t going to sit there for hours waiting for his turn to come up, so “Over the Rainbow” it was…. again.
The crew member running the “Okey Okey” was wonderful, she recognized him right away from the night before. Had I known the introduction she had prepared for him I would have started taping sooner.
She was wonderful and the audience was wonderful. He was thrilled. Celebrity status in tact, we headed back to the room – DC’s favorite place.
I do have to acknowledge the random maintenance man who let himself into our room at 10:45 to change a light bulb while DC and I were sleeping. Thanks, sir!
Once in CoCo Kay, we opted for the glass bottom boat tour before hitting the beach. It was only an hour-long so we thought it would not be too much for DC. I am, by nature a “people watcher”. The people sitting across from me may have had the impression it would be much longer trip or that we may be shipwrecked 30 feet from shore, as they brought most of the breakfast buffet with them. The man next to me was very entertaining as well. He was not having any of this. His wife, on the other hand was very excited about the whole thing. At one point the ship hand began diving under the glass and bringing up live sea creatures to pass around (I suspect they already had these creatures on the boat, but they made a nice production of him driving).
– Passing around sea creatures – I am now holding my breath…….
A BIG THANK YOU to the man seated 4 or 5 seats before DC for dropping a creature, and taking all of the pressure off - I could breathe again. Even if DC dropped a creature at this point, it was okay because someone had done it before him!
After the boat ride, we spent some time on the beach, had lunch of course and headed back to the ship and at DC’s request, back to the room – “I need to get some rest”. DC was happy to lay in his bed with his books watching reruns of “Bones” (because, he was “Angel”, of course) and “Castle” (“Captain Hammer”) on “Two – Five” and eventually, fall asleep.
Our final stop, the next day was going to be Key West. DC remembered that there was a Hard Rock – or Hard Rock “Caf” – in DC-speak, in Key West, so that was all he was focused on.
We took the tour that went to the Hemingway House. We’d been past it or in front of it many times, but we had never taken the time to go inside. We met with the tour guide who announced that we would be walking approximately 2 miles in total, but the tour would take at least 3 hours!
I knew at this point that this tour was a mistake! It takes 30 minutes to walk two miles – 3 hours meant a lot of standing around in the heat listening to stories along the way.
By the time we made it to the Hemingway House, DC had had enough. I saw a look on his face I hadn’t seen in years. Now DC does get anxious when he arrives anywhere, even if it is somewhere he really wants to be. I can always see the change, on his face. He stims, he repeats random words – “Tinkerbell, Tinkerbell, Tinkerbell” or “Another Wendy, Another Wendy, Another Wendy” and his eyes get wide. This was different. This looked like it was going to be a full on meltdown.
I took him off the crowded porch and tried to walk around to the back of the house where there were fewer people. We stayed there until he calmed down. Fortunately, he was able to calm himself down. He was calm enough that he said he would go inside. We quickly went through the house and informed the tour guide that DC was having trouble and we left the tour. It took all of 10 minutes to get to Hard Roc “Caf” and all was fine once again.
Thursday was a tough day on board. It was a day at sea, heading back to Baltimore. It was cold, so not only was every passenger on board but most were indoors. There was not a lot for DC to do. He just wanted to stay in the room but I told him we had to leave for a little while at least so the invisible cabin steward could come to clean the room.
He did participate in the “Wishes at Sea” walk for Make a Wish Foundation.
Unfortunately the walk did not take all that long and it was getting colder and colder.
We tried to go shopping, but it was so crowded that no one could move. We managed to make our way into one store where DC found a Disney coloring book and markers (not that he didn’t have both in the room, but these were NEW). After wandering the entire ship, looking for somewhere for him to sit and color, we found a table in one of the bars, filled with others that seemed to have the same idea. I had more coffee and DC colored happily for a good long while.
Coloring done and believe it or not, I was at “coffee capacity”, we took another couple of laps around the ship and FINALLY it was time for lunch.
After lunch, DC REALLY wanted to go back to the room – “I have to get some rest”. He was happy to be back in the room, reading his books and watching “Two – Five” . He fell asleep as he always does, and fortunately that killed a few more hours and it was time for Dinner!
Thursday, was just hard. I was glad when it was time to go to bed……………..
By Friday morning, DC was ready to go home. He had a great time, but he was ready. Our original plan was to stop off in New York City (Dc’s favorite place) on the way home, but all we heard about during the last few days on board was just how much snow had been falling since we left Baltimore a week earlier. So we decided we’d better just get driving when we got into port.
When we did arrive in Baltimore, there was not one flake of snow on the ground. Our shuttle driver reported that they did have close to a foot but they had some rain in the days that followed so all of the snow was gone.
We decided the stick to our decision to just drive home because we did not know how bad it was going to be closer to home. Fortunately the New York City stop was also going to be a surprise, so DC didn’t know anything about it. The change in plans did not pose a problem.
It was a very good thing we did…………………………..
We had to shovel our way in………
See: Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Pt. 1
and Baltimore, Over the Rainbow and Back – Pt 2