A few months ago, a blog follower tipped me off that the History Museum does a "autism friendly" event one Saturday morning every month. If you are in the NYC area and want to know more, check out this link for details. http://www.amnh.org/plan-your-visit/accessibility/autism-spectrum (Nope. They didn't let me in for free. They didn't even know I was coming. It was an undercover mission.)
The museum opens one hour early JUST for Team Quirky. You are given a tour and then free to stay after when they open the doors for the masses. If you have ever been to any attraction in Manhattan, I think you can imagine how unique this opportunity can be. Let's put it in perspective here. This is the museum Ben Stiller runs all around in that "Night At the Museum". So we get to walk around with NO CROWDS! No one judging. All with the tribe. Your kid is flapping? Cool! Mine is too!
I know what you are thinking. "Oh my kid could never do that though. He would have a huge meltdown and Oh my god! What would we do?" Guess what? My kiddo HAD a huge ass meltdown at it AND we made it out alive. This tour is Kiddo tested, Mama Fry approved!
My husband is quite the history buff. We're talking about a man that took me to see Martin Van Buren's home on our first vacation together as a couple. I knew he would be down for checking this out. Honestly, this is one of those things as parent to a child with autism that you pretty much think you're not going to be able to do. Like ever. Now we had a chance. So, we signed up. (If you are thinking about this, you MUST register to do it. No walk ins.) He called up and booked it.
Now being where we live in New Jersey, city day trips aren't impossible. However, the Kiddo is involved. While taking a train in could have been fun for him, it wouldn't allow us much control over getting in and out when we needed. Since the tour itself started at 9AM, we decided to stay over the night before in the city. Make it a little getaway. Again, I must have forgotten I was bringing the Kiddo with us. The Kiddo and his very intense obsession with hotels. All the rooms are assigned a number and we all sleep together in a bed like a pack of dogs? YES PLEASE! Sign him up!
In previous trips, getting The Kiddo to leave the hotel has been challenging. He's usually game to go to the hotel pool and that's about it. We've even had a hard time getting him to leave to go get something to eat. He's obsessed with staying in the room. Mainly because he doesn't want the vacation to end. Can you blame him? Vacations are pretty awesome. It usually takes some tough negotiations on our end to get him actually leave the hotel room and do things. It helps that Daddy Fry is an attorney. He meets The Kiddo head on like a union boss.
I wrote a social story. We talked about what we would see constantly. We showed him the web site to look at the exhibits. We got to the hotel and checked in. He very willingly went out to dinner with us. Like actually left the hotel to go get something to eat. (We had no choice. Our hotel had no restaurant.) We got him his first New York City slice of pizza. He loved watching taxis buzz by and I saw him checking out some of the bigger buildings. He gladly again left in the morning with us to go get some breakfast. Happy as a clam. I kept thinking "Hey, he's really doing well." ROOKIE MISTAKE!!
We check out. He's cool. My husband remarks to me "Hey do you have two "fives"?" as he wants to pay the parking garage guy in cash and with that, it all starts to fall apart.
The Kiddo starts scripting "Two FIVE!" randomly as we are driving over to the museum. We just kind of acknowledge what he said but at the same time, not make a deal out of it. We arrive incredibly early but we find fantastic parking. I say "Let's just situate ourselves in here" to kill some time. Mainly because I don't want to be just standing outside a locked door with a Kiddo who's just randomly scripting "Two FIVE" to passersby. (Of course, this is New York City we are talking about. Thinking about it now, I bet no one would have even batted an eye at it.) He's contained in the car but Daddy Fry is like "Let's roll." Bam! Out the car he goes and we're off and I'm getting a bad feeling about this.
Daddy Fry and I locate the security/staff entrance and we still have like a half hour to kill. So he takes him for a walk around the block and I sit myself on the steps. I just knew it was better this way because in my gut I was thinking it was about to go south.
Time passes and I see another family approaching. I can tell they are one of us and the Mom and I lock eyes. She tentatively asks "Are you here for the special tour?" and I smile and say "YES!" By then, Kiddo and Daddy Fry have returned and seem to be in okay spirits. So we all walk in with this family. I see others approaching and I'm like "OK so maybe this will be good."
We meet our tour guide. He was so nice! Everyone there was. He had a bag a dinosaur toys he was handing out so the kids could fidget and play with them. He heard Kiddo scripting numbers and asked "What's your favorite number?" and again I was impressed. You want to engage my Kiddo? I know you're good people. Talking about numbers though I think led to the beginning of the end. Suddenly The Kiddo starting rattling off "613", which was the room number of the hotel we just left. Daddy Fry and I looked at each other in fear. We knew what this meant. He wanted to go back to the room and that was not even an option. After this tour, we were out of here. We had talked about other things to do in passing during the week but I think we both knew it probably would not happen. Best not to press your luck. I'm a "Leave them wanting more. Go out on top" kind of gal.
We start the tour. The Kiddo looks pissed. It's clear he knows he's not going back to the hotel room and he was going to make sure everyone in that museum knew it too. Cue the water works. Lots of loud crying and whining. After a while, I take him out of a room to the hallway. We find a nice bench. I give him my phone and say "Let's just let Daddy go look around. Let's watch Blue's Clues." He starts on YouTube. I just want my husband to have this. I just want him to look around and enjoy himself. I know how much he loves this place.
I think I got about two minutes of calm and then The Kiddo decided he no longer shared this feeling. That's when the yelling started, which I know will then lead to screaming (It did!) and then flopping dead weight onto the floor. (Did that too!) We have hit the point of no return. We needed to get the Hell out of there.
We get a moment of calm in the car. I know it's because the Kiddo thinks we are driving back to the hotel. (We're not and we didn't.) Cue the epic meltdown take two. The whole ride out of the city and all the way back to New Jersey. I got the brunt of it. He pulled my hair and my clothes and screamed in my ear the whole drive. I think we were about a minute away from our actual house when he finally accepted we were not going back to New York.
Then he turned off the screaming and asked to go out to lunch.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?
This is where I am so confused. How much of this was meltdown versus tantrum that he didn't get his own way? I really think for him, they sometimes overlap. The majority of all of this was fixated on getting what he wanted and his reaction to not getting it.
No Kiddo. No lunch. Right now, I'm not even sure if I will ever leave the house with him again and he knows it too. Cue the big time sucking up on his part at the moment. We have a trip planned in June. I think my husband might have to slip me a mickey and tie me to the roof rack in order to get me to go.
So, was it worth it? Yeah, cause even with the meltdown, I did see some progress on this trip. Frankly, I live in fear that if we as autism families don't take advantage of these programs, people will stop offering them. That's why I am telling you. Even if this is no where near you, call around where you are. You might be surprised and find a similar one.
We're living proof you can do it. Even with the meltdown, nobody cared. They've all been there. They know and they were probably thanking the deity of their choice that it wasn't their kid for a change.
Yep, French Fry Inc took one for Team Quirky today. You're welcome!