San Antonio Way

As San Antonio is within an hour or so of our house, it is one of our favorite (and easiest) vacation destination. Each summer, if my son has “earned” it, through reaching his behavior goals (don’t tell him, but we arrange it to where he is always able to earn it!) we travel to a close-by hotel for a night away.


La Cantera Resort, San Antonio, photo from Destinations Resorts

This summer, as with last summer, the travel fates smiled upon us and I was able to find a Groupon Coupon for a $149/night room mid-week at this gorgeous resort–La Cantera Resort, San Antonio. 

We swam, ate by the pool, took a beautiful nature hike on the hotel’s trails that wind around the golf course (NOTE: These trails are not ADA accessible.), and enjoyed a spa treatment. Yes, you read that correctly. My son requested a spa treatment “for a man” he said. So, we used the WoodHouse Day Spa services that are right on site. They were able to accommodate a child with special needs as long as I was present in the treatment room. My son chose a calming 30-minute hot oil scalp massage ($45). He was in heaven. It seems extravagant, but truly, it calmed him so much that it was worth it. Those of you with autistic kids know that calming their minds and bodies is a big part of the experience of parenting our special children.

We were able to secure a late check-out the next morning and then sadly said goodbye to our 24 hours of bliss at La Cantera. Hasta next summer La Cantera! 

Sleep Away Camp is a Dream Come True

I never dreamed my son could manage sleep away camp. His autism used to impact him so severely that he wouldn’t leave our house for days at a time if there was cloud cover. He hated gray skies. And now, he was a part of a camp experience (as an inclusion camper with a 1:1 counselor) where every other week, they went out of town. And this camp was not special needs camp with specially trained counselors and an itinerary with sensitivity to autism. This was for typical children and wouldn’t have the kind of daily structure that his brain craves for a successful experience. But one day recently he said, “I want to go on the camp overnights.” Dumbstruck I asked, “How will you handle this?” And in a very nonchalant way he said, “I’ll be fine.”

I’ll Be Fine.

Oh my.

For years we’ve managed his every new experience, through writing social stories (copyright Linda Gray), prepping him, preparing his caregivers, having lots of options if Plan A doesn’t work out, you name it.

And now, in early teenage years, he’s telling us, he’s fine.

And he was. We held our breathe, packed him up and let him go. For days he had to wander around San Antonio doing what the group was doing, managing the sounds, the sites and the smells of a large group of middle school kids. None of whom had autism. My son was the camp’s first overnight camper with a disability. He is breaking barriers, and more importantly, changing hearts and minds about what people with autism are interested in doing. Autism for him means not talking to others much, but he likes to be with others. That’s his brand of friendship–presence.

The week wasn’t completely glitch-free. On the last night, the counselors, not trained in autism tantrums, accidentally made the group late for a concert that my son was excited to go to. When they were late, he threw a pretty big fit on the bus, but recovered once they arrived at the concert venue. I think the counselors learned, “don’t be late!” as a primary autism imperative when traveling.

When he triumphantly returned home, I asked, “How did you do that????!!!”

And he said, “I just stayed flexible and survived the heat.”


Traveling mercies

Austin was lucky enough to have the touring Architects of the Air Luminaria interactive exhibit in our town and our son wanted to go. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the very very long line for this super cool experience. Friends, you know one of the biggest challenges of traveling with autism is difficulty with waiting. Oh, the waits and the fits and then the stares of other parents. It’s enough to make you want to stay home. But, this blog (and life) is about travel and adventure, so we prepared ourselves for a several hour wait. Bringing along an iphone loaded with games to pass the time, off our family went. We left an hour before the exhibit opened in hopes that we’d get a jump on the crowds. When we got there the wait was going to be around two, possibly three hours. So, wait and wait, we did.

Our son had even tried waiting the day before, standing in line with a therapist for an hour before giving up, unable to manage the crowds and the noise. He was determined to try again. I was proud of him for trying but not sure we could do much better. For more than an hour we walked and ran around and tried to entertain him. At one point, I headed off with my daughter and struck up a conversation with a lady out walking her dog around the park we were waiting in. I told her about our two-day attempt to walk inside the exhibit.

“Oh, there’s a line for special needs. I’m sure you can go up there and ask.” But seeing all of the people waiting in line, I didn’t want to “cut” even though our son was getting precariously close to giving up. While I was standing there debating with myself about asking for an accommodation, the dog owner (or was she our guardian angel?) strode up to the front of the line and got us a special needs pass. I let her. I never even got her name. When I went to retrieve my son and husband, our helper was already gone. I wanted to thank her and didn’t get the chance. I did get to thank the touring manager who O.K.’d our request but not the mystery dog walker.

I’ve had experiences like that before and it always make me certain that fate, or luck, or guardian angels is on the side of special needs families when they travel. Traveling mercies indeed.

My son, oblivious to the negotiations involved to get us near the front of the line said, “See I told you waiting isn’t so hard for me.”

So, what’s Architect of the Air exhibit anyway. According to their website:

“Each luminarium is a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes where Islamic architecture, Archimedean solids and Gothic cathedrals meld into an inspiring monument to the beauty of light and colour.

The luminaria are designed by company founder, Alan Parkinson, who started experimenting with pneumatic sculptures in the I980s. They are made of a plastic produced uniquely for Architects of Air. Only four colours of plastic are used to generate a great diversity of subtle hues.”

When you step into the inflated “Luminaria” with its different “rooms” there is a wonderful glow from the colored plastic walls allowing light to filter in at interesting angles. One room has colored windows, like stained glass, and my son exclaimed in happiness, “Look at the stained glass. It’s a cathedral.”

My son was motivated to wait in line (not something he will normally manage) by his deep love and obsession with visual forms. The “Luminaria,” as the inflatable creation is known, looks like an inflated cathedral of colored plastic that you enter and walk around in (without shoes) or lay down in against the soft inflated walls. There is calm music playing in the background and the constant whoosh sound of the entire structure being inflated is quite relaxing. Listening to the music he said, “I hear beauty. I am in a lullaby land.” The whooshing and the near silence of the participants gives it a very spiritual feel. Or as my son said as we entered, “This is a new kind of synagogue,” and he got down and bowed in prayer. It was a beautiful mystical moment.

Thank you guardian angel of Austin for helping us have this wonderful experience.