What a great day, just what we needed. Today was well overdue so I am thankful. The last few months have been brutal. This was the first weekend in over six weeks that everyone in the house was feeling well. The month of February alone our little loves had four double ear infections, three cases of the stomach bug, two upper respiratory infections, four fevers, one cutting teeth, and then my husband had the “man cold”. We all know that last one was the hardest on all of us, right ladies? I don’t know how we didn’t catch the flu, but praise God it spared us.
On top of all of that we received test results back from the geneticist for Alex. It has been confirmed he has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND). Eli with his chronic stomach issues was given the diagnosis of Underdeveloped Bowel Syndrome. And I was told I would have to have back surgery again. When it rains it pours.
Today it was time to get out of the house and forget about all the bad stuff and just have fun.
I stumbled across a local autism group called Autism Site Knoxville (ASK). They were hosting their fourth annual Day at the aquarium today. When I saw the invite last week I thought it would be the perfect way for us to spend a Saturday morning. And how could we pass up the low cost of only 10 dollars per person? As the day came closer however all the normal mom worries started coming to the surface. We had not even made it to church in two months how in the world would the kids do at the aquarium? Would it be to crowed for JR? How would he do with the noise? What is he had a meltdown? How would my husband and I handle it with all the other little loves in tow? This would be the first big outing that we had done in months and we would be doing it without the help of our older children or grandparents. Not going to lie I was a little overwhelmed. But when your four hours away from family you got to go out on your own at some point. With our family its just a much larger challenge than most.
So this morning we loaded four very excited and two very sleepy children into our 12 passenger van at the wee hour of 6am so we could drive a little over two hours to be there when the aquarium at 8:00. The event ran from 730 to 1030 but of course we were free to stay longer. I am so glad we went. The staff was super sweet and handed out goldfish, gummies, and water to the kids as we came in. Being that early in the morning the kids were able to walk around and enjoy all the different tanks without being ran over by other people.
The event organizers had different sensory stations set up throughout the aquarium so if JR or even our other kids wanted to take a break they could. The lights were softened and the background music was turned off. Everyone there got it. Everyone there was living in the world of autism. There were no nasty remarks about behaviors, or looks when he made his unique noises, and no one stared at us. Okay some people did look at us but it was not because of JR it was because of the size of our crew lol. He rode in his stroller for a while then walked with me for a while. He pointed out the scary sharks and the huge sea turtles. And he made it known he did not like the seahorses, after all real horses don’t look like that.
He made friends with other people waiting outside and made sure to tell all the moms we passed just how cute their babies were. And no one cared that he was talking to them or touching them. Most told him thank you or even told him he was a cutie as well, to which he would just laugh and smile. He really enjoyed himself. Our other kids had a great time as well. We don’t get to do things like this often unless we have our backup team to help us in case he has a major meltdown or takes off running. He has no safety concerns at all. So thank you ASK for making today possible. Thank you for hosting events like this so that children and adults with autism can go and do everyday things. Thank you for opening it up to all of our children so that we could attend as a family. Thank you for a day we will not soon forget. Thank you for giving us a day were all of our kids could just be kids. Thank you for helping this mom see her son really enjoy himself today. Today was a good day and we so needed a good day.