Last week, we took our first family road trip to the Bay Area and then Redwood Valley. We were gone for five days and saw many friends, some of whom we hadn't seen for 10 years (and who had never met the boys), and many family members. It was the farthest north Elliott, Ben, and I had ever been. I was an anxious mess at first, especially the first day. Elliott had never been on a real road trip and he was sleeping in a motel room and being hauled all over town, to meet new people in new places. We made a social story for him, but he didn't seem to get it. We bought these, the best purchase of our lives, and installed them in the car.
Ben had a blast and was polite and helpful and just his amazing, affectionate, fun self the whole trip. Elliott had a mixed reaction to the trip. When we went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, he was totally enthralled for about two hours. But then he short circuited and started screaming and demanding fruit snacks. And then he pooped his pants and it was all over. Still, he recovered from each freak out and slept great most of the time. At Ryan's aunt's house in Redwood Valley, he did fairly well, but did have one night of sleeplessness (growing pains), and one day of screaming (going to the coast).
The thing is, when we got back, despite all of the screaming and stress, he had grown measurably. He has been talking more, more affectionate, more aware, and more social. Like his occupational therapist says, we can keep him in his bubble without any stress, or we can challenge those boundaries and force growth. The latter is more difficult, but it is so much more rewarding.
And now we know that there is one more thing our family can do.