Anxiety in the Car-The Ultimate Backseat Driver

Have any of you ever driven with a backseat driver before?  You know that friend or partner (sometimes male, sometimes female though usually male, sorry boys 🙂 ), that tells you what to do, where to turn, to remember to stop, to yell out are you trying to kill them? No, wait .That’s probably just in my family. Or maybe it’s in your quirky family too. Anyway, I think we’ve all been there before. Find it funny yet annoying at the same time? Well, here’s one for all of you: Try doing it when it’s your child with autism telling you where to turn, (whether it’s right or wrong), asking why you are turning there, and then that evening, asking for a route to the place you’re going tomorrow! Ah, yes. Life is never dull in my household. It’s quite incredible to me that four short years ago my son  Michael could barely talk to me. Now he’s asking questions, making statements, and giving me driving directions! It’s exciting, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about his verbal ability, it’s just that sometimes, well, a little less ‘turn here, go there’ would make for a smoother less stressful car ride. I know it’s his anxiety about the unknown that makes this a big deal, so I’m trying now with drawings (stick figures, as Mom is no Renoir), to illustrate how we can take many ways to go one place, if there are traffic problems, construction, or any other event out of our control. I also avoid using the term accident, as I don’t want to risk alarming him. All of us Moms know what one wrong word can do to our child with autism, right? Yep, there goes the other ear drum is what I say! But seriously, Michael understands pretty much everything these days. My husband and I used to have great chats in the car when he was younger. Now though, one of us will inevitably start a story when a “Mommy, Mommy.” “Yes, dear.” “Hi Mommy.” “Hi Michael.” This will happen several times before I may have to gently tell him, “Honey, Daddy was talking or Mommy was talking. Let us finish, then it’ll be your turn.” My husband laughs and loves this, as it shows that Michael wants to communicate with us. I also NEVER discourage him trying to converse with us. But, I also want to teach him manners and social norms, something which is particularly challenging for kids on the spectrum. But that’s another topic for another day!

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