I have had years of working out how best to calm my child when things go wrong.
From walking the floor with him as a baby, to long car rides until he fell asleep to taking him places to meet his sensory needs like swimming and soft play.
Routine, space, familiarity, school, being calm and lessoning demands all became part of keeping him safe and keeping the rest of us safe.
But then 2020 changed everything.
All the strategies I had in place disappeared when lockdown happened and within days my son returned to being aggressive, confused, angry, and very challenging.
His world was turned upside down and he didn’t understand why.
I had to adapt and quickly!
With heavy restrictions and rules in place for everyone and a ‘stay at home’ law in place life for us became very difficult.
When the school taxi didn’t come, when he asked for places using cards and I had to say no, when church closed and we stopped going out he became more and more angry.
He was communicating confusion and upset and as an adult I needed to remain calm.
So we started walking.
First I took him to a familiar place we visited regularly.
Then sadly that too was closed.
I took him more local walks which at first made him even more anxious and aggressive.
He would refuse to move. He would scream. He would hit me.
I totally understood why...this wasn’t what he was used to and he had no idea where we were going.
Finally the familiar place reopened.
Mostly I take him there to walk to calm him, regulate him and meet some of his sensory needs.
But sometimes we walk to calm me as much as him.
The last 12 months have affected me.
I am exhausted, sad and weary. My patience isn’t what it used to be and I can feel my own anger brewing some days too.
While I can verbalise my thoughts and have greater self control than my 12 year old non verbal autistic son I have discovered that in many ways we have similar needs.
We both need fresh air.
We both need a change of scenery.
We both need routine.
And we both need our walks to calm us down and regulate our emotions.
One day my son may be back at school.
Even when he does I might still be doing the same walk to clear my head because it’s going to take a lot of miles to get over all that has happened in the last 12 months.