So I can’t believe that it is the end of June. I knew that this would be a busy month, but sheesh. This month started with me attending the first annual RPM Homeschooling Parents Retreat Weekend in Maryland. This was my first time traveling without kids on an airplane in 10 years. The weekend was a wonderful way to recharge my battery, connect with like-minded parents, and share ideas and strategies.
It was awesome.
I came home and we got ready for our family cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. We left five days later.
Ryan has been on two other cruises with us, but this one was different as this was the first time that we knew that Ryan clearly understood everything going on around it. I was both nervous and excited about it. I knew that the excursions would be amazing exploring and learning opportunities for both Ryan and Grace and that we would have a lot of family fun.
And we did have fun.
Ryan’s favorite activity on the cruise turned out to be rock climbing. Ryan was up early one morning and I had gone out to the jogging track on the cruise ship before everyone started moving. Once I returned, I took Ryan out and we explored the ship. We went by the rock climbing area and I asked him if he wanted to try rock climbing (I had remembered that both Ryan’s friends Fox and Brayden both liked to rock climb). He replied DEARLY WANT TO TRY ROCK CLIMBING. We waited in line to check in when we met Ivo, the man behind the desk at the rock climbing station. I explained to him that we had come on a whim and that Ryan was interested in trying it. I also told Ivo that Ryan was autistic and that he could not speak but he understood everything. I mentioned that he would likely need a lot of assistance in the beginning to try and do it as his motor planning and movement is poor. Ivo was just as kind as could be and said no problem. I also mentioned to him that we could wait in the line, but I asked if we could wait until it was Ryan’s turn in order to put the helmet and harness on him. Ivo said that we would not have to wait and that he would get Ryan started now. One curveball that we ran into was that you had to have socks on to wear the special shoes to rock climb. Ryan was in Crocs. I had this idea that I would give Ryan my socks to wear (remember I had sneakers on from the jogging track) and Ryan agreed to wear them.
So Ryan endured my socks, rock climbing shoes, the harness, and a helmet because he wanted to try to rock climb so badly. Let me tell you, this was hard for him but I kept reminding him to just focus on the rock climbing not the gear and that we would get it off of him as soon as he was finished.
Ivo was awesome. He was patient with Ryan and Ryan did great. He actually started climbing and Ivo shouted, “Ryan you are like Spiderman!” but he shortly lost his focus and came down.
He tried two more times and then he spelled: EAGER TO TRY AGAIN TOMORROW.
So we tried it each day that we could while we were on the ship. Ryan spelled that IT IS REALLY HARD but I mentioned to him that he would get better with practice. I told him that he didn’t get great at the letter board overnight and that if he was interested, we would keep exposing him to it.
We did have two issues while we were on the cruise. I share these because I think that it is important to be realistic about potential situations that could arise for any autistics on a cruise.
Grace is calling this incident, “Mickey’s Wild Ride.”
Ryan has a strong impulse to throw things into pools, water, or off of ledges. His beloved Mickey landed on top of one of the elevators. Luckily, after alerting guest services to the issue, we found him at the guest services desk the next morning.
The second incident was a casualty and it was definitely an accident. Ryan dropped his iPad while he was carrying it near the stairs. Our stateroom attendant had a question for me and the nanny that was with us and Ryan slipped too far from us in that instant and the iPad dropped three flights of stairs and cracked. If you know Ryan, you know that he is extremely attached to his iPad, especially for background noise and for comfort. He spelled I AM SO SORRY. We were not mad at him, we were just worried and sad about the situation. He then spelled: I AM TOO DEPENDENT ON MY IPAD. We told him that this would be a good opportunity to try and wean him off of his dependence. He actually did great the rest of the trip and did well on the plane ride home (which I was worried about.)
Here are Ryan’s thoughts on the cruise:
I LIKED ROCK CLIMBING THE BEST. IVO REALLY TREATED ME WELL. IVO IS A KIND PERSON, PICKING UP ON MY NERVES AND MAKING ME FEEL COMFORTABLE.
THE HARDEST PART OF THE CRUISE WAS NOT BEING ABLE TO LEAVE THE SHIP A LOT.
THANK YOU UNCLE OWEN AND AUNT LINDA FOR TAKING US WITH YOU.
The reason that this post took so long to write is that not even two days after we got home, I drove down to HALO in Austin, Texas for specialized parent training in Rapid Prompting Method by Soma Mukhopadhyay.
This was a four day, intense training about the origins of the method and the execution of it. It was amazing. I have been doing RPM with Ryan for over 2.5 years now and I learned so much. And a wonderful added bonus was that I got to spend the week with Fox’s mom Lisa, who has become one of my best friends over the past year and a half.
I also got to spend it with several of the moms who attended the retreat two weeks prior (whom I adore too).
So be prepared for some changes and improvements to upcoming posts from Ryan and me. I have already started incorporating several of the things that I learned this past week and it is going well. Soma said to expect that there will be some steps backwards before improvements. One of the things that I have already begun to do is to ask Ryan to correct or rephrase his sentences if they sound too poetic or unnatural for normal speech. He has taken to this very well already, coming up with the rephrasing on his own. The structure of our RPM lessons has changed to include more opportunities for creative thinking and writing. As a result, Ryan is currently writing his first story with me! It is awesome and I can’t wait to share it with all of you once it is done.