Staycation Vacation

Autism is challenging. There, I’ve said it. But, I still like to have fun, and so does my son. So, one of the best ways we can vacation is to staycation. To achieve that summer bliss, we enjoy spending a weekend in a local hotel–our favorite is the Austin Renaissance Hotel–and enjoy feeling very far away even though we’re close to home.

The last weekend before school is a great time to get away. Most people with autism need constant scheduling and consistent routines. Well, that is not what summer looks like. I try to book special needs summer camps that provide my son a consistent routine, but even with advance planning, we’ve still had four weeks this summer of very little structure. As a result, his autism-induced nervous tics have gone into overdrive. He’s coughed all summer from anxiety, not from a medical condition. Yes, friends, we’ve seen specialists and therapists about this problem, we are just waiting it out until school starts and his routine improves for this to get better. It’s a waiting game with his tics.

We both needed a vacation.

Thus, we decided that the hassles of an airplane ride and the exhaustion of packing up weren’t worth it and opted to spend the weekend at a close-by nice hotel. We swam, we lounged, we hottubbed (is that a word? it should be), we relaxed. It was really nice.

So if you think your family cannot handle the stresses of a vacation, what about the pleasures of a staycation? For us, it really helped us achieve the desired “summer vacation vibe” without spending too much money (I think $139/night is a great deal) or even leaving the city limits.

Visiting Northern Outer Space

For years, my son has lived in a place he invented called, “Northern Outer Space.” I once asked him where it was and he easily was able to tell me, “Up where they stir the Milky Way, above that, there’s a door, if you go through the door, then you’re in Northern Outer Space.” He loved playing there. He made up an entire culture there, with a people, The Sut People, an indigenous people that had their own language. Somewhere in my house of papers, I have the alphabet he created along with schematics for the Sut Town Library and other municipal buildings. But what’s an imaginary land without a Super Villain?

He created a super villain, Rex, that was always fighting the good guys, The Sut People, along with my son, and his Northern Outer Space friends, Emma and Ulysses. They had YEARS of adventures, probably five years and it was always the most interesting thing if he would describe what was going on in Northern Outer Space. He rarely wanted to talk about it, but he was seeing the “movie” of it for years of his life while we went about our lives, he was off in Northern Outer Space adventures.

And now, it’s gone. Vanquished because I encouraged him to have things in common with other children in his age range, I encouraged, the now new obsession, Annoying Orange. In my attempt to make him more “typical” and fit in better with his peers, I drove away one of the most unique things about him–his imaginary world. Perhaps it was destined to be so. He probably shouldn’t live in there forever. But, sometimes, I feel a pull between helping him be more like other kids (“typical”) and allowing him to spend all of his time deep within his imaginary world, a place of relentless creativity. As my son professes to be an artist, I want to create a space for that to become a reality. So, am I making him less artistic by exposing him to outside peer-appropriate influences? I don’t know. I guess time will tell.

I guess all moms feel guilt, but I feel particularly bad about pulling him out of his imaginary world since it was such an incredibly alive place. As alive as any place he might visit in reality. Plus, creating is an important skill for life. Obsessing on an existing cartoon, not so much.

I asked him why he spent all his time with Annoying Orange now and he said it was because Rex had been vanquished and that was the end of the Northern Outer Space saga. But, I can’t help wondering, what are the Sut people doing, now that they no longer have to live in opposition to their sworn enemy. I asked my son what they were doing now and he said, “They’re just relaxing.” So, I guess Northern Outer Space would be a nice place to visit. Hopefully, he’ll choose to return there someday.