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Saturday, 10 February 2018

A theatre outing with autism

Right about now, as I'm typing this, our eldest daughter is singing her heart out on stage in her last performance of the Gang Show that she's been appearing in this week (it's a big show put on by all the local Guides and Scouts - look it up, it's fantastically amazing and worth booking in your diary for next year!). 
girl outside stage door

Of course I would dearly love to be there watching her and celebrating the last show, but I had to make the difficult decision to try and take her younger sister along to see the matinee performance this afternoon rather than be there for the finale myself. Eldest's Dad is there with his parents tonight, so she does have support for her last performance, which is the main thing. And I managed to make it to two other evening performances this week, so I've seen how amazing our girl was (biased, I know, but she does love being on stage!) and I've not missed out. 

But. I took Sasha this afternoon, and it would be wrong to say it was plain sailing. So much preparation went into getting her there that the 'average' person just would not believe. I find it difficult to believe myself, if I'm honest. I'm not just talking about the ten minutes before Sasha and I were due to leave the house, when it was raining outside and Sasha wrapped herself in her duvet, saying she was comfy and she really didn't want to go.... that involved some serious persuasive skills, to get her dressed and out at that point. Sasha did want to go, she wanted to see her sister on stage, she kind of understood that it would be a good thing to do to support her.... but still, this was way outside her comfort zone, and her bed seemed like a much wiser choice at that point. 

There was a lot of preparation in advance of this outing; not big discussions and talking, because Sasha doesn't do those, but rather small 'chats' and trying to leave the playlist of songs from the show open on the ipad in the hope that Sasha would hear and like them (the Periodic Table song definitely grabbed her attention 😁 ). Tamsin was involved in all of this, because she is a fab big sister, and she understood that her little sister would struggle to sit through all the songs and sketches. So we worked out which parts of the show Sasha would like best, and I came up with a plan which meant Sasha sitting through those parts where her sister was on stage, but not all the extras. But we would only leave the theatre early once in each half so as to not be too disruptive to others. 

It all worked well; Sasha just about coped with the amount I thought she would. There was a lot of fingers in ears, and the audience clapping caused her a fair amount of grief, but we retreated early to a quiet foyer at the two times when Sasha needed it most, and she recouped there with a little bit of free dancing to the songs she could hear coming muffled from the stage. I'd taken the noise reducing headphones with us but sadly although I know they work well for others, Sasha has never been a fan of them. 

During the interval, I briefly met and chatted to another mum I know, who also gets some of these challenges (I say briefly, because Sasha was not at all impressed with me talking to her and came out with her famous line of 'chatting gets us nowhere mum' 🙄). I'm sure this other mum won't mind me saying that, as I half-remarked to her about having to take Sasha out, she said 'but nobody minds, except of course you probably do, but it really doesn't matter'. 

I left thinking there was some truth in this; at the age of 3 or 4, it's not so unusual to be taking a toddler who can't sit still for long periods out of a theatre - in fact we met some of those in the foyer today. But at the age of 10, it does tend to stick out more when you leave half way through a performance, especially if that child isn't so confident about leaving because they know it's not the done thing, but they really feel they have to. 

So I know there will have been some other parents there who just didn't 'get it', who raised an eyebrow or two and wondered why I couldn't make her wait, and I know there will have been parents there who understood totally. Eight years after diagnosis, I still do think about both those types of parents, but I know what I have to do. It doesn't generally make the decision or process any less difficult, especially when it's not what I want to do for myself, but understanding the repercussions is a large part of making those decisions easier! 

Today we were able to sit out for a while which enabled me to persuade Sasha back in to watch the grand finale of the afternoon show - not something she wanted to do, but she understood why I wanted to do it. So she was able to compromise, maybe because she knew that I had done the same for her. I never take for granted that Sasha can actually achieve this kind of thing, but it is very welcome when it happens. 

This is not a whinge, it's just a snapshot of how life with autism can be. 'Life Jim, but not as we know it' 😏


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