We recently took Logan on his first trip to the beach. He is two years old, but considering the eventful last couple of years a trip to the beach seemed unimportant in the grand scheme of things. With all of Logan’s sensory issues and problems with traveling and riding in the car for any length of time we were nervous about making an hour long road trip to the coast. But just like all other adventures with autism…we have to try.
Everyone always prepares for a beach trip, but when you have a child with autism, preparation is key! We made sure we had plenty of “comfort” foods like gummy fruits, plenty of juice, a weighted pillow for the car if needed, and of course and endless supply of DVDs for the car. We made sure he had lots of sand toys in case sand just happened to be his thing, because you never know if he will have an aversion for something or all out love it.
The car ride there was a hit. He watched Yo Gabba Gabba, Nick Jr., Thomas The Train, and Spongebob the entire way there. Of course, we couldn’t get him to look out the window at any of the scenery along the way, but as long as he was meltdown free I was happy with that.
So we arrive at the beach and decide to take him the the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. We figured in case the beach were a complete sensory overload to go ahead and take him the aquarium first in case it wasn’t an option later. We walked in and he went wild over the fish and the exhibits. He especially loved this interactive floor that he could walk on that appeared to have fish swimming under his feet. In fact, we could hardly get him to leave that particular display. He loved the fish and was especially excited by the sharks. We were so thrilled at how well he did inside the aquarium because it was dark, had unusual lighting, there were lots of people everywhere, and it was extremely loud due to echoeing. He was completely unfazed. We were so proud of how well he did there. So far on this trip…we were winning.
Now we were feeling brave. We left the aquarium and headed for the beach. We unloaded all our stuff which looked like we were moving. Then I put Logan in his harness. I try to prepare for all scenarios. I could just envision us walking up the beach and him sprinting off into the ocean without warning. I can’t even describe to you the stares we got for having my child on a “leash” at the beach. I am pretty sure I heard someone say “looks like a dog”, but I can’t be sure. I have become completely oblivious to the ignorance of the public eye. I don’t care about the scrutiny. I just care about keeping my child safe and no one can ensure that safety but his dad and I.
We found a great spot. Not too close to the water, but yet not too far away and the best part was we were right beside a lifeguard stand. I felt very good about that. My older boys took off with their boogie boards and my husband and I set up “camp”. After everything was settled, I took Logan out of his harness and he sat right down in the sand and starting running his hands through it and rubbing his feet around. 1-2-3…I was waiting for the fallout. Nothing yet. My husband got out his sand toys and he started playing with them in the sand. Big wave of relief washed over me. He likes it! Awesome!
Now our next hurdle is the ocean. He has been glancing at the water but not making any indication that he wants to test it out. We aren’t about to have this much success and not attempt it so my husband walks him out to the ocean. For a little boy who is such a fish in the pool, he was clearly intimidated by it. He wasn’t so intimidated, though, that he was frantic but just enough that he was cautious. I was pleased with that reaction. Sometimes he is too fearless for his own good and it was nice to see him a little guarded about something so big and foreign. He slowly warmed up to the water but never letting go of his dad and that is the way I wanted it to be. It was good to see him reasonable and rational regarding something that could potentially be dangerous for him. We spent almost two hours on the beach and it was wonderful and meltdown free.
Now it is important to mention that by the time we left it was late in the afternoon and Logan had not had his nap and was clearly off his routine. I was silently bracing myself for a meltdown or a complete breakdown, but nothing. We put him in the car and turned on his video and he was all smiles. We decided to push our luck even further by finding a great seafood restaurant and having dinner on the coast. We found this great seafood buffet restaurant and had the most wonderful seafood dinner and Logan remained calm and happy. By the time we left it was getting dark and close to Logan’s bedtime. He never showed any signs of becoming upset or insecure about his schedule disruption. He had a wonderful and fulfilling day. He rode home focused on his DVDs and very content. We came home and gave him his bath (he had sand in places I didn’t know were possible) and put him to bed. I don’t think he cried one time the entire day.
It was in my opinion one of the most perfect days since he has been born. We have had plenty of rough days since our trip to the beach and several meltdowns, but this day proves to me that he can do things like other children and life is a beach…sometimes.