Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My son, Cal, has been asking if we could ride the train for about 3 months now. NPayne took him on a train ride back in May with his two best friends to celebrate his birthday. However, it turned out not to be a celebration. Although Cal LOVES the train....for some reason on this particular day in May.....he did not. It wasn't until they were on the TRE, and it was in motion; that he began to have a full blown panic attack complete with screaming hysterically for the first 30 minutes of the ride. If you have ever ridden the TRE, this is how it works usually.....you ride one way (30 minutes), either get off or hang out on the train (30 minutes), ride the other way back (30 minutes)....so yes....that's an hour and a half. NPayne decided the TRE wasn't going to happen again for quite a while. With a child with autism, unpredictability is part of the deal. Sometimes, things that he normally loves and has loved, make him completely nuts. Other times, things he normally can't stand, he deals with just fine. He has made so much progress with communicating this to us, but every now and then; we are fooled...for lack of a better word....into thinking all will be okay when in fact it won't. After much discussion over the last week, NPayne told Cal we would ride the train this past Saturday. With Cal, you also have to be very specific, because if he has something in his head; and it's different than what you had planned....it is almost guaranteed disaster. So Saturday we prepped him all day by telling him that we would ride the TRE not the diesel (that is at the station down the street). He was fine with it and asked what time we would ride and what time we would be finished.....like he always does. Although he had been asking to ride the train with his sisters for the last few months, he kept saying that he didn't want them to ride on Saturday. NPayne told him if he wanted to ride, the girls were riding too. Cal agreed to all we had prepped him for and off we went. We got there, and he started to get a little upset; we quickly gave him an out and told him we could go home. He declined and got really excited when he saw the train coming. We all climbed on and found our seats....the girls with me....and NPayne and Cal right behind us. The train was not crowded at all, there was a guy with a bicycle, a woman, and another man in our car. The train started, and a few seconds in, so did Cal's anxiety. He began to scream and cry as loud as he could that he wanted to get off and didn't like the train. NPayne tried to console him, and I tried to console him with absolutely no luck. The conductor and the 3 passengers obviously noticed his horror and looked a little concerned, but then they seemed to dismiss it.....all except one man. He started asking questions and even came and sat by NPayne and Cal to see what was up. When NPayne told him they were fine, he moved back to his seat across from them and began to cover his ears as Cal continued to scream. I heard the man mumbling a few things, and then I looked at him. When I looked at him, I knew immediately.....he too was autistic. After about 15 minutes of Cal screaming with no end in sight, the man approached me and asked me if I thought Cal might like to ride the train downtown to the Neiman Marcus parade. I explained that Cal didn't like parades, and then he asked me if he liked trains. I told him that yes he did like trains but apparently today he wasn't in the mood for a train ride. The man told me that he rode the train every day to his house, and that if Cal didn't quit screaming they would call the police on him. I smiled at him and assured him that the police wouldn't be called. I found myself consoling this grown man and assuring him that Cal would be okay once we were off the train. It was sort of like an out of body experience....explaining to a full grown man, who seemed to have the mind set of a young child....that my boy...who was clearly driving him a little insane with his screaming would be okay. I couldn't help but wonder if the man had once felt the same as Cal and was able to finally adapt to riding the train every day. The girls and I ended up moving to a different car, to see if that would help Cal calm down, since he appeared to be upset that we were all riding the train. After a bit, he did calm down. I'm not sure if it was because we moved or because he got distracted, while we were sitting on the train at the depot, and he was watching the diesel trains pass by. Nonetheless the last hour of the train ride was quiet....even when the train filled up completely at one stop....Cal remained quiet. What set him off...we still don't know...and never will. It's part of life with a child with autism....never knowing....expecting the unexpected....being pushed into uncomfortable territory as he screams and yells in a place that you can't leave...and then calming down (that has just started happening in recent years, and for this coping skill....we are very thankful).

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