It is nerve racking for the majority of us. For those with sensitivities it can be torturous. I fully expected that Connor would sleep his way through the hour and a half drive to my father's house and then hide in a bedroom the whole visit. Which is OK if that's what he needs to do.
To my delight however he didn't. He named cows, horses and various other things the whole way there and stayed out in the crowd playing with toys and the other children while we were there. The fact that he has discovered those pretty little wrapped packages contain toys has helped bring him out. The presents are where the people are and he can tolerate them for presents.
While I color a pretty picture of a well modulated boy breaking through and being a perfect angel, as with most toddlers this is not the case at all. He still had troubled bringing himself down to a regulated state anytime he was disappointed (mainly if told he couldn't have something). I am also afraid that this is made worst by a mother that still despite all well intentions is not quite grasping the situation until it is over and then smacking herself on the forehead.
The perfect example is the stop at the truck stop. My husband decides that since Connor seems to be in such a good mood he can go in the store with him. My daughters and I who sit in the car with scratches on arms and faces from this same delusional thinking, have our doubts about the outcome. However I talk myself in to believing that since he acts different for the two of us, he will be fine. I somehow, even though I know it not to be true, talked myself into believing that his outburst and tantrums were due to being spoiled and he wouldn't try to pull that on his Daddy.
After a moment or two of thinking this I hear crying and screaming and know that my son and husband have exited the store. I get out to see if I can help because I am sure he is on the ground at this point. Hubby has him picked up off the ground in a fireman's hold. He brings him to the car and wrestles him in with Connor making wildcat noises as he fights back. He would much rather lie in the parking lot, cars be damned! When he is in and is hiding his face behind my daughter (he likes dark enclosed places to come down) I notice my husband has a spot bleeding on his face.
Hind sight is 20/20. Writing about this I can see that Hubby handled the situation well even though he had a few minor outburst of his own. Looking back at it really lets me see how marriages become strained. Most couples I see or know of that have autistic children have a father working outside of the home and the mother being the main care taker. A snide inconsiderate remark from one, especially about if the meltdown is due to the child's condition, and tempers more than flare. Which makes any situation worse whether you are wrestling to keep a child safe or not.
I am happy to report that the flaming tempers were kept to a minimum however and after we talked about what was to blame for Connor's distress, we were fine. Later on our trip however I showed that my husband was more the visual learner than I when my daughter pipes up "Mom, help get him off of me."
"How big are you? You can get him off."
My husband looks at me and laughs saying, "Well he kicked my ass and I weigh 250, she might have a little trouble."