Believe it or not, my daughter Samantha asked me to make a list of vacation rules. Why didn’t I think of this 20 years ago?
Probably I was too busy running around with my almost 10-year-old twins. Or maybe I never imagined Samantha would (or could!) follow even the simplest list of requests. Now that we are living in the time of the coronavirus, I’m sitting at home a LOT more. Thus, the need for a vacation and plenty of time to prepare a list. Also, Samantha (now 29) is able to be more reflective and articulate about her needs.
Structure and rules are very helpful to everyone, especially people with autism. Advance preparation and discussion also have a huge impact on future behavior. Different families with kids of various ages will obviously have different expectations, but here’s this autism mom’s list of rules:
Speak respectfully, even if you don’t like something, don’t understand, or disagree with it.
- Follow Covid 19 rules—which may vary from one location to the next—to keep everyone safe.
- Treat others as you wish to be treated. No cursing, screaming or rude tone of voice.
- Unless it’s an emergency, do not interrupt Mom or Dad if we are on the phone or busy.
- Respect our space and be considerate of others around you.
- If you are singing or practicing your lines, keep your voice down, so you don’t disturb other hotel guests. If you’re not sure when or where it’s appropriate to rehearse, ask first.
- Please allow Daddy and me to have quiet time and relax on a deck chair or in our hotel room. If we want to take a nap, that will take priority over rehearsing your lines or songs. Choose a quiet activity.
- Avoid arguments. Accept that we will not always be on the same page about everything, and that adults can either compromise or agree to disagree. Remember that life would be boring if everyone felt the same way about everything.
- Trust that your parents always have your back. If we make suggestions (or ask questions) about your food, clothing, grooming, social life, etc., it is ALWAYS because we care about you.
- Do not ask defensive “why” questions about our comments, requests or suggestions. The answer is always because we love you and want you to have the information you need to make the right choices for YOU. This is NOT infantilization. We are all adults who happen to be family. We are all on the Elisofon team. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work?
- If Daddy is on an important business call in the car, we must be quiet. His work pays for our vacation and everything else in your life, so it’s the top priority.
- Always allow others to choose their own words and don’t demand compliments. Do not insist or manipulate us to use a particular adjective like “wonderful.” Accept praise graciously without questioning our choice of words or trying to manipulate/nag us to into choosing your preferred compliment.
- Don’t mention the word “groceries” (aka Samantha’s extensive personal list of carbonated beverages, including diet sodas and flavored bubbly water) or you will lose them. Do not ask about groceries or refer to them in any way at all over vacation.
- LISTEN more and speak less. Be less perseverative. Being a quiet and ACTIVE listener contributes to the conversation, and does NOT mean you are excluded.
- Do not monopolize conversations. Give others a chance to have the floor, even if you can’t contribute to the topic.
- Avoid ridiculous exaggerations like: “You hate me.” “You never give me credit, allow me to go places, etc.” “You always (fill in the blank with a negative).
- Please wait longer for what you want. If people don’t respond to your needs immediately. Be PATIENT. Patience is a virtue, as we all agree. Try to have more of it.
- Think of other people’s feelings and needs in addition to your own.
- Don’t freak out if Dad calls you Sam by mistake. Your choices are to move on, or sweetly and calmly remind him.
- Have fun and be fun.
- Let Mom and Dad have fun.
Although most of my “vacation rules” seem self-evident to neurotypical readers, they are far from crystal clear to Samantha. Since she likes everything “broken down into small, manageable pieces,” I granted her request for this list of rules. If seeing rules in black-and-white (or in my blog!), will help her become a better travel companion— especially at this stressful time of Covid19—then it’s well worth the extra time and effort to write them down. Stay tuned!