Empowerment. Not Embarrassment.

My day yesterday with Liam was educational, for both myself and my mom. We met up to go out for lunch and shopping. I took a lot out of the trip and I was able to share this moment with someone who really wanted to understand.

My first mistake, or more forgiving words would be oversite, was not trying to explain to Liam where we were going. I was so caught up on getting out the door and deciding myself where we were going I lost track of the importance of telling Liam.

We were driving down the road where all the stores and restaurants are trying to decide where to go for lunch. Liam was in the backseat watching the streets we were taking as he always does. We were on the road that to him, leads us to Chuck E Cheese. Though it was not in sight Liam said “Chuck E Cheese? Yes it’s good.” I looked back and thought how cute. He wants to go to Chuck E Cheese. We kept driving on and ultimately passed the road that led to Chuck E Cheese. Liam started to cry. I said “Sweetheart, we aren’t going there today. We are going to lunch with Nana.” At this point it was too late. The meltdown began. A meltdown does not begin with instant crying and screaming. It begins always with a mix of emotions that are not able to be processed.

We pulled into the Chili’s parking lot and in the distance Liam could see Walgreens nextdoor. He was pulling me that way saying “People”

The most familiar thing to Liam was going to Walgreens with Nana a time before. He had gotten a Pop Figure which he calls people. This was a safe place for him I assume. This was what he was familiar with. In the many emotions he was feeling, this was a familiar moment.

We decided to walk over there and give him the relaxation before heading into Chili’s. I was talking about wanting to get him coloring books anyway.

We went into Walgreens and he was happy as could be. This was only on the surface though. Inside he was still lost and trying to pull it together. We went to the toy isle and he looked through a few things. I was just talking with my Mom about everyday life.

We saw some coloring books and looked at those. Liam put the toy down that he picked and just wanted to organize the marker boxes. I knew he was still trying to process.

I picked a coloring book and markers. He spotted some slime he liked. I grabbed that too even though he wasn’t really wanting anything at all.

We passed some lollipops. It was a tower of lollipops that was similar to one that had saved me a time before. This time that was not going to work and I knew it. He just wanted to organize them. I had him grab one, again he didn’t really want it.

I could tell everything he looked at he didn’t really want. He was just grabbing anything and then would put it back and go for the next item.

We got to the register and he saw another item he wanted to grab and again didn’t really want. He was trying to grab it. I held onto him and just began to pay for the items I was purchasing. Could I have given him the package he wanted by the register, yes. Did he really want it? No. I would have paid for it just for him to want to grab something else on the way out and it would have all ended the same way.

I continued to pay as he cried and screamed in my arms. I could tell the women who was the cashier was either judging me or not sure how to react. She said no kind words, no smile, nothing. She had a stone face. I continued to smile and be nice to her while Liam was screaming in my arms. To me I wasn’t phased. I wasn’t sweating as I used to. I was 100% focused on Liam.

We walked to the door as he screamed harder. He was pulling on the door so it took me a bit to get out the door. Boy is he strong! I figured all eyes were on me as I tried to maneuver my way out of the store but I didn’t care. I continued my encouraging words to Liam with a smile on my face.

We got out the door and I just leaned up against the wall and sat down with Liam on my lap. I didn’t care if anyone in the parking lot saw us, I didn’t care who was coming out the door of the store or if that cashier could still see me through the window. This moment was about Liam and nothing else.

He was a mess of tears and screams. I sat on the sidewalk and just held him tight. Liam does well with compression in these moments. The compression helps him with the sensory overload. I held his sides tight as he sat on my lap facing me. He tilted his head back crying. I kept a tight hold on him and assured him all was ok.

Eventually he calmed down. We sat for a little longer. My poor Mom was very understanding and just giving as much support as she could. Once he was calm enough we walked back over to Chili’s. I didn’t think he was ready to go in so we sat outside on the benches. I pulled out my phone for Liam to watch his videos and relax.

My Mom and I had a deep conversation about everything that happened and just life in general. How the world expects you to behave a certain way and if you don’t it’s instant judgment and outcast. It was nice to sit and just talk. Hiding from what was happening would not help us grow and learn.

Liam now was coming back to us. That’s how I like to describe it. We went in the restaurant now fully equipt with a coloring book, markers and slime.

We ordered, ate, played and Liam did great. He was a little on edge but I was there to bring him back at every moment.

We went to the car and Liam was Liam again. He was talking about going in the car and asking to go shopping. I looked at my Mom and said he seems good to go lets do it. If it doesn’t go well we can just leave. I told Liam exactly where we were going, Christmas Tree Shop. We went and he was an angel the whole time. The only hang up was at the register when he knew he always got the little Play-dough package. Liam at this point was not in a meltdown. We have plenty of Play-dough and this was a tantrum to not give into. I said no and he gave me a small cry that I knew was a spoiled cry. I still said no, we left and he was fine. All smiles to the car. I looked at my Mom and just laughed. I said ”You got to experience a meltdown and a tantrum back to back.” It was good for her to see the difference. It was also nice for me to get them back to back. It just helps me grow with Liam more.

I felt empowered with all that happened. I was not embarrassed in front of the cashier, I was not self conscious sitting outside of Walgreens. This is my son. He needs me more than the feeling of embarrassment. His need for my understanding will always empower me to stay strong.


  • Antoinette

    you are a great mother and motivator for myself to not give up or in to society’s views of me in times of stress with my son. I wish I had discovered your page before my bday dinner this year in which I looked forward to ALL year. I don’t get out much, where I ended up ordering my food and changing it to take out and sat in the car crying with my son while I waited on my fiance to pay the check and grab the food because of the meltdown my son Alex had as soon as we were seated. looking back I think I could’ve been able to enjoy myself rather then leave if I had your confidence and lack of embarrassment instead I was lost and just ran away. Thanks to your family I have the strength and tools needed for future outings and am way more prepared and less embarrassed or frustrated. thankuuu from the bottom of my heart. god bless you guys.
    Antoinette & Alexander

    • Our World On The Spectrum

      I woke up to your message and it was such a beautiful way to start my day. Thank YOU for reaching out and sharing a bit of your story. It makes me so happy to know that you were able to find your peace in your journey. Sending you and Alex hugs! 😊

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