Looping can be really time consuming and difficult to navigate in a public setting. Looping usually occurs for Liam when he is in a high anxiety situation. I wanted to share an example of one of Liam’s looping experiences in the store today.
We pulled into Rite Aid with one goal. Showing Liam that we found him a new car display with many new cars he doesn’t have. Liam’s absolute favorite thing to do is go on the hunt for new vehicles.
We headed straight for the cars. Liam saw the display and immediately started checking over each car front and back looking for the lucky winner that would come home with us. We know this takes a bit so we just let him do his thing.
A few minutes go by and Liam has decided on one vehicle. It was a toss up between two, a black police SUV and a silver SUV. I was down the aisle a bit with our daughter Maya checking out other toys. Liam came over to me to show me the new car. I said “Oh yay! You picked a new car? What did you get? A silver Jeep?”
Instantly I see Liam’s face drop. I looked at Frank and said “Oh no, did I get it wrong?”
I quickly said “Silver SUV?”
Frank put his head down and said “Yeah, you got it wrong”
Liam looked at the front and back of the silver SUV and immediately has to go back to the display.
Now, this was his trigger. This started the looping.
I am still learning why this happens. I am not sure I will ever know why but I will never stop trying. The important thing is we know when to identify it and handle it when it happens.
Liam then had to look at the cars all over again. We could see this time it was full of anxiety. He then picked the black police SUV. We started to walk to the check out and once we got to the front he turned around to go back to the display. This time he picked a red car. We went back to the front of the store and got in line. We waited a few seconds and he needed to turn back and go back to the display. As we walked back Frank looked at me and said “I can’t think about how hard this is for us, because it must be so much worse for him.” I love him to no end for that comment.
Frank and I for the most part, are on the exact same wavelength when it come to Liam. Our compassion for Liam’s disability is endless.
Liam at this point is so thrown off that he puts the car back and starts pulling the balls out of the bouncy ball display tower. He just wants to organize them. He is totally lost at this point. We are able to get him back to the cars and Frank tells him “It’s OK buddy, just get 2.”
But Liam doesn’t want two. Liam is used to getting one. One is part of Liam’s routine. He says “Yes and No” (this means No) and continues to try and pick just one. Now he is trying to pick between a red car and the black police SUV. We know this will just continue and lead to a meltdown. It’s just inevitable.
This whole time Liam is not being too loud but the frustration is growing and he is starting to get louder.
Until I spot a display of lollipops. This is my redirect moment. This is it. The lollipop display looks like it has a ray of sunshine coming down from the heavens!
Liam has the 2 cars in his hands and I scoop him up and say really loud “lollipops! Look Liam a whole bunch of lollipops!”
He was so excited to see the lollipops and pick a color.
The redirecting was over, or for the moment..
We waited at the register. We went “beep beep” (this is what we say so he knows we are paying) for his 2 cars and the lollipop. I went to the side with Liam and Frank finished paying with Maya.
Then we saw the water and soda cooler. Bottles. Liam loves to organize bottles. He wanted to open it.
Another redirect. “Liam! Let’s open the lollipop!” I sing a little song about opening the lollipop as I open it because it is taking forever to get it open. It’s open now and Frank is done paying. Now we can leave.
We survived! We made a trip to the store.
Now imagine this trip alone.
Imagine the trip without a lollipop display.
This was a huge meltdown moment that was saved by 100% patience, listening to unspoken words and teamwork between my husband and I.
This is what it is like for a family to attempt to go out in public with their autistic child.
Now imagine Liam was not high functioning.
This is not Frank and I giving into a tantrum. There was no tantrum. Liam was just looping.
Liam was lost in his mind. What was happening in there I don’t know.
This was not a spoiled moment. Liam was asked to take 2 cars and he wouldn’t.
This was not us pampering him. This was his parents being special needs parents.
I read a comment in one of my special needs groups that hurt to read. The comment is why I felt the need to share this experience. I can’t even imagine being the Mom in receipt of the comment. She wrote speaking about a very close family friend who was referring to her son. He said “You just need to spank the special needs out of him.”
The ignorance is out there. It’s in our families, it’s on the streets and unfortunately sometimes it’s even in our own homes.