Forget concerts. And movies in the theatre. Or anything loud with lots of flashing lights, because my son just can’t handle it.
It sucks to be a parent to a child with Autism because you feel like you can’t do the things that are “fun” to the average, neuro-typical human. Birthday parties? Totally out. Anything 3-D? Forget it. Large crowds? Think again. Bright fluorescent lights? Not a great idea.
I’ve learned the hard way over the years with what works (and doesn’t work) with my son as far as activities are concerned. I remember what prompted me in seeking an official diagnosis was after an attempt to take him to Nick Jr’s Story Time Live show in October of 2010. He laid on the floor the entire time, screaming as though in pain and covering his ears. The woman sitting next to me was thoroughly annoyed with my seemingly deficient parenting skills as I also had a two month old baby strapped to my chest and a five year old sitting two seats down. I actually told her before the concert was over that he was on the Autism Spectrum because I just knew he was. He was the only child in the entire venue not enjoying Dora and Boots dancing on stage. When it was time to leave, he was so overwhelmed from the sensory barrage that he couldn’t even walk up the stairs to leave the orchestra area. He was two years old at that time, and it was only one of many times I had dealt with sensory overload in my young son.
Even as a baby we never went to restaurants with him. It was painfully obvious that it was just too much to process. Our eldest child loves to go out, loves to be around people, loves to eat in restaurants, and certainly enjoys going to the latest Pixar flick in the theatre. From the moment my youngest son was born he was just different. Something about him just struck me as off, so when he got older and the problems got worse and worse I can’t say I was surprised in the slightest that he has both High Functioning Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.
This past weekend I decided to take my chances and schlep all three of my children to The Wiggles Big Birthday Concert. Going to this concert entailed a two hour drive in traffic through Los Angeles, followed by a pre-concert lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Lunch was painful, but I could tell he was trying his best to keep it together. He was so excited to see The Wiggles, and with this being their last stop on the North American Tour it’s not as if we’d get another chance to go.
After lunch we headed to the concert by walking over to the venue. When we entered the Amphitheater he instantly became overwhelmed by the number of people in the room. We got to our seats in the second row, and the show started shortly after we sat. The music started, and for the first 10 minutes or so he was TOTALLY digging the concert. He sang along to “Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car” and “Rockabye Your Bear.” Henry the Octopus came out on stage and he was absolutely star-struck by seeing him so close up.
And then it went downhill from there.
He spent the rest of the concert either on the floor or hitting his brother. He tried to escape at every chance he got, for it was just too much for him. But gosh darn-it, we got those seats for FREE and they were such GREAT seats! We were staying at the concert no matter what!
Two Moms in back of me gave me dirty looks regarding his behavior. I spouted off my usual line of, “I’m not a bad parent, my son just has autism,” so they would put the brakes on their judging. As soon as The Wiggles said goodbye and the music stopped I could see the relief on his face. I could tell how thankful he was that the lights were no longer flashing, and Murray wasn’t playing his loud guitar anymore. It’s obvious that we won’t be going to another concert any time soon, but hey… at least I can say I tried to be that Mom that takes her kids to super fun places. Really, I tried! It’s just not a good fit for him.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned in raising a son on the spectrum it’s that I can never push the envelope too much with his capabilities, whether it be sensory, tactile, or motor. At least I know for sure that this little guy will never grow up to be a “raver”. Could you imagine? He wouldn’t last 5 minutes with a strobe light! But in the meantime, forget concerts and all of their loud, fabulous music. Perhaps they are overrated, at least they are for my little guy anyways.