“Rhys, hand” I ask as we walk out the house, my hand held out for him to take hold of. He continues to walk forward ignoring my outstretched grasp. I grab the sleeve of his coat as he darts past me. His hands are hidden in the sleeves and I try to pull one out, but he resists and contracts his fingers into a fist.
Our routine is planned and executed in the same way each day. We leave on the hour giving ourselves sufficient time to walk around the corner and down the road to pick up my eldest from school. The two roads are busy with cars and buses on the school commute and I have held Rhys’ hand every day, on route, to ensure his safety.
“Rhys, hand” I request firmly but he will only let me cling to his coat sleeve, refusing the restriction. I pause and think for a minute.
I am one of those over cautious parents. As I look up and see a pair of four year olds running freely ahead of their parents, my stress levels starts to rise. I consider the risks on those kids, the sence of danger and the consequences that could result. Those parents aren’t worried. But their situation is different to mine. Those parents don’t have the sprinkle of autism involved like in our scenario.
But we do have some things.
Over the years we have worked on the word “Stop” which Rhys responds to. I have also worked on routine and we have walked this route to school tens of times. The same pavement trodden and the same noises, sounds and smells experienced. The scenario has been tried and tested and therefore there is an opportunity to push the boundaries and check our progress.
“Let’s go, Rhys” I say and start to walk forward. He walks next to me, but seeing his new sense of freedom he suddenly bolts forward and runs at full speed down the pavement.
“Rhys, stop!” I shout. It takes a few seconds to process, but he stops and waits for me.
We continue in the same vain all the way down the busy road. Rhys watches the massive bus wheels and runs ahead, but always stopping on my command. Not once do I hold his hand, and although I am on constant alert and a high sense of unease, he is following my command and walking independently.
We have moved from a situation of not being able to leave the house to a situation of walking unrestrained! That is massive for us! That makes us feel more part of this world that everyone else lives in! The world further away from the stresses we once experienced.
The feeling of walking casually on a school run while my son runs ahead is a place I never imagined. But here we are, totally rocking it.
If you are not there yet, don’t give up. Things take time. They take years. Just take one step at a time. And you will get there!