Predicting Traffic in Autismland

Navigating a day with Roman is as easy as predicting traffic. (Or the summertime weather. In Maine.) You know where you need to go and which path you’d *like* to take to get there, but some days, it’s like herding cats. Let’s just say, unpredictable.

On a day when Romi is busy, and not at all interested in getting in the car, he drags his feet in the house, refusing to get his shoes on. Bargaining, pleading, and sometimes bribery-inducing pretzels change hands. Deals are done, and pinkies are sworn.

Once outside, he begins a series of scripted gestures- opening and slamming the back car door, running around to the other side, rinse and repeat. Then he saunters away from the car and over to the rope swing in the yard, scrambling on, and pointedly NOT looking at you.

Until you start the engine, making it clear you mean business. This errand is happening! Groceries must be bought! Therapy horses must be ridden! Siblings must be picked up! Occupational therapy must be had!

He waits until you pull out to the end of the driveway, lower the backseat window down, and politely ask him to take his seat. What?, he calls. “Time roll out, Romi!” Oh- time to go? This is sudden news to him. He rushes over, and buckles up after a gentle prompting: “what do you need to do next, Rome?” *click!*        

  • Radio? Tuned to AltNation.
  • Seat dancing? Check!
  • Sporadic singing? Absolutely.
  • Windows? Unlocked, and down.
  • Doors? On child lock.
  • Reminders? Keep all body parts inside the car. At. All. Times.

Same route as always, but sometimes plans fall apart. The car is running on empty. Roadwork ahead. Rain storm. Detour for bridge repair. So you wait. No use raging against the asphalt. Except that Roman can’t predict how we’ll get out of a pickle, and uncertainty does not put him in his happy place.

But yesterday? The cars in front of ours were all flashing their brake lights, and I could see that there was one-lane traffic ahead. Crap! I began mentally prepping for the fallout from the back seat. I could pacify him by explaining why they are adding an exit to the highway; question him on how long he thinks it might take to get going again; bore him with a lecture on the importance of turn taking; distract him with a “hey- look at that cool scoop-AHH!”

Just then, Roman chimed in with a totally unexpected request: turn up the music, please! Turns out all he needed? Was a little more seat dancing.

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