Holidays and the great get-together’s are something everyone looks forward to. Whether it be a wedding, BBQ, or a larger occasion like Christmas. But what does this mean for people who don’t handle crowds well? This is one of the many things that we consider when going to any event.
We enjoy gatherings as much as any other 20-something’s do. The only difference for Cole and I is that we require a tad more planning than most others. As someone on the spectrum, Cole appreciates having a pretty thorough game plan before hand. One of the most helpful parts of that is knowing about the people who will be there. I think it is common for most people to gravitate toward those they know at a big event like a wedding, and this is no different for Cole. Knowing someone and being comfortable with that person when we go somewhere can add an extra “buffer” to the overwhelming atmosphere. Knowing the size of the crowd when possible can also prevent a very stressful surprise of seeing so many people all at once.
Just as the loud and busy atmosphere can bother Cole, I also am bothered by loud noises. For me loud noises can be a trigger for seizures. Large crowds or unfamiliar places also cause me anxiety at times when can be a trigger. In fact, I also appreciate a level of planning although for different reasons. If I am going to someone’s house, I often don’t plan to use my wheelchair. This saves us from taking that with but if I do choose to walk somewhere then I have to worry about a few different things. Will I have to walk very far? Will there be somewhere for me to sit once I get there? (this question usually only arises if I go somewhere with bleachers as the bottom spots seem to fill first and I don’t do stairs). If the party is outdoors it is helpful to have space. Is it someones yard? This very scenario presented itself during our most recent gathering over the 4th of July. Cole and I went to my sister’s camper where we were mostly outdoors. During the course of my pregnancy so far my balance has been greatly affected making me more wobbly than I would be normally (which was already unsteady). I opted to stay on the deck for most of the evening and was a little nervous walking in the uneven grass when I finally joined everyone playing games. Luckily I have a great family that helped me get where I wanted.
A very important factor in having a plan (maybe the most important) is a timeline of the night. Having a ending time to the evening is key for many reasons. Specifically for Cole, knowing when he will have “downtime” is very important at the end of the day. Decompressing from all of the stimulation throughout the day HAS to be part pf the day. At times we have had to leave somewhere early or skip some part of the day in order to keep from becoming overwhelmed, Thankfully we have very understand friends and family who have learned a bit of our “code words” when we are getting overwhelmed. My family knows that if I say “Cole needs to be done”, it means he’s at his limit. “I need to lay down” usually means my body is hurting and I need to lay down to get some relief. If Cole and I are having a conversation with a stressful or “hot” topic, it’s not uncommon to hear one of us say, “I need a minute”. For me (McKenna), this means I am getting too upset and I need to cool down, and for Cole this phrase often means he is getting overwhelmed or anxious and needs to calm down.
Like Cole I like to know a general timeline of my day. This helps me know how many catheters I need to pack, what medicine I need to pack, as well as some other health related things… sometimes if we are going out of town, this may mean changing my shower and personal care routine.
Even with all of the forethought and planning that goes into things, I wouldn’t have it any other way! We love getting together with others and going to big events like weddings and family gatherings and surprisingly to some people, don’t give a second thought to all of the planning 🙂