Parents of autistic kids are always trying to strike a balance between the routine and the new, between comfort and the unknown. During these long summer days, I’m constantly moving between letting Martin do the things he likes and trying to offer him at least a little structure. I ask myself questions such as, “Should I ask Martin to work on this handwriting workbook or let him play with figurines for another half hour?” or “What can a reward for good behavior possibly be on a day when a kid has already played in the sprinkler and eaten 2 popsicles?”
Martin is doing pretty well, almost too well. He really likes the lack of structure. In fact, he resists the moment we impose even a bit of order on his day. That’s the autism paradox: a love of order alongside a refusal to try to new forms of order. Once you struggle to get an order into place, you’re tempted to keep it for the next 15 years.
So who knows what will happen on Friday. We’ll try to tell Martin about visiting the White House, including what we can see and what we cannot see. We’ll ensure him that a White House tour and visit to the National Zoo will be more fun than he can possibly imagine. We’ll try to convince him that new is good. But I’m not a great salesperson. I too eagerly acknowledge complicating factors (hello, I’m a decent historian). I’m far too willing to admit – and be flustered – when a problem arises.
So we’re in a summer mystery zone. A place between order and chaos. A time between old and new. Martin seems to like it. The question is whether or not it’s good for him.