Anxiety, Adventure and Airplanes; Countdown to Takeoff
In less than two weeks, my son Jordan who is 27 and on the autism spectrum and his sister Maddie, who is 25 will embark on an airport adventure where they will be traveling together, just the two of them to visit their dad in Florida.
For families like ours, living alongside autism, each step of the way is filled with unexpected turns and profound moments, but perhaps, none more remarkable than preparing for a NEW first in our family.
Navigating Atlanta traffic, airport parking, TSA, getting on and off the plane and doing it ALL without me!
The countdown is filled with both anticipation and anxiety. This is where patience and understanding of what I can’t possibly understand is necessary.
If not, I go crazy ��
With the knowing comes the anxiety, lots of it. Jordan's upcoming trip is more than a simple trip; it's an exploration of independence, well kind of.
For him, this anxiety is a natural response to the unknown.
Jordan's mind is filled with questions, and he relies on asking them repeatedly for reassurance and a sense of control.
There will be hundreds of questions, needing reassurance, the same questions over and over again but that’s ok, I’m used to it by now and over the years, I have learned ways to ease his anxiety with my answers but the questions still come.
I expect them and the days leading up to the trip will be marked by a daily routine of questions and answers. The questions are repetitive, but to him, they are lifelines to lessen his debilitating anxiety.
I answer them, the same ones again and again providing reassurance and helping him visualize the plan he's created in his mind for their airport and travel experience.
Jordan's questions cover a wide range of concerns, from the specifics of the airport's security and tram system to ensuring he has the right chargers and cables for his switch.
He won’t let me forget the Band-Aids for his toes because all the walking at Universal Studios and Halloween Horror nights, he is very aware result in terrible blisters if not protected.
He asks, “Is the tram at the Atlanta airport like the one in Orlando?” I reassure him that while each airport's layout can vary slightly, the basic concept of trams for transporting passengers between terminals or concourses is similar. I tell him Atlanta tram is underground, while Orlando is above ground, I know this is an important fact he needs to know. Jordan's attention to detail is admirable and the logistics matter to him.
Every day between now and November 2nd I will answer the same questions reassuring him of what he knows and maybe some new ones he thinks of on that day.
As I help him prepare I am reminded of how grateful I am for his incredible sister. She isn’t worried, I am the worried one, yet I know with all my heart that GOD chose her to be his sister without a doubt.
She gets him now, but it wasn’t always like this. It’s been a process for them of learning and over time, developing and growing the relationship they have today as young adults.
Then, on that day, their travel day, I know I will be pinching myself wondering how this is real. Are these really my children? Is this happening?
I never could have imagined this. NEVER.
I will help load the suitcases and watch as he gets in the passenger seat of his sister’s car. I will probably ask her a million questions, just to be sure she’s prepared and has everything she needs. I will hug them and kiss them both and I’ll pray, “Lord, keep them safe and above all, please let it go just as he has planned.
Shannon shares her lived experiences in hopes of creating a more inclusive world for our children and adults on the spectrum.
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