We are now at the stage where we can pretty much take Billy anywhere without the constant worry that he will run off, get lost, or behave in an inappropriate way. That said, I was recently reminded of how autism can creep in on any occasion.
Last week, the Tommeys all piled into our gas-guzzling car (see Autism Media Channel’s show on meeting the Edwards family at the Fashion Factory for footage of breakdown in this car!) and drove down to Dorset for a huge family gathering set to span the entire weekend. Saturday night was a meet at a local pub with an option to either eat or just drink, with the main aim of getting together before the big Sunday paella-fest on my mother’s lawn the next day. We decided to eat at my sister’s so we could just arrive when we wanted and casually mill with the massive number of family and old friends on hand.
We arrived in plenty of time and because the British weather was unusually warm and sunny, many gathered outside with people scattered everywhere. A football game was immediately started by the incredible number of younger generation teenage boys we had suddenly produced! Like all parents, Jon and I make an occasional visual check on all our teenagers; all three are the same, no worries as all are as safe as any teenager can be. It was after just over an hour or so that a friend came out and casually laughed about the amount of food Billy could eat
Food? We hadn’t ordered any! I hobbled into the pub (yes, still two broken feet, mending brilliantly and thanks to new technology, I have two expensive, extremely unattractive heel-walking boots along with crutches so I can hobble around: 17 more days to go!). There was Billy – munching through a large cheesecake. He was sitting happily at a table on his own, well away from the long trestle tables assigned for our large party. He had made his way through a prawn cocktail starter, beef burger and chips followed by a whopping cheesecake. Before I could hobble over to his one-man table, a very pretty young waitress ran out with a plate of chocolate pudding shouting, “Chocolate surprise?
“Yes, please,” answered Billy, beside himself with excitement.
I then realized what had happened – as an autism parent you quickly learn to work out a situation! Family and friends, having not seen each other in years, had placed orders and then scattered around the pub and in the garden to mingle. This poor waitress had multiple orders with no understanding of who they were for, so she took it upon herself to call out the food as each order was filled. All fairly normal you might think – but for Billy: he thought he was in the most amazing place where a very pretty lady kept asking if he would like an array of normally banned food
It is little things like this that remind me how vulnerable Billy is. It was funny and I get the misunderstanding and so do my family – but I shudder when I think what may have happened had he not been with me and the comfort of his family. In the autism world, we can never completely let down our guard.