Exposure

Dear Addie,

Field trips. An opportunity for kids to enhance their educational experiences of things they learn in the classroom with a more hands-on approach.  A true rite of passage for most school-aged kiddos. But for those of you with social, communication and sensory challenges such as yourself taking you out of your comfort zone and routine can be unpredictable and even exhaustingly challenging…but not impossible. It does take an additional amount of preparation for the teachers who need to ensure they have not only lunches but, headphone, iPads, sensory toys, change of clothes, enough hands to help etc. For myself it’s one thing to send Clara and Gabe off on a field trip, it’s a whole other to send you on your way. You could at any time have a possible fight or flight moment sending you running Usain Bolt-style, escaping your fear potentially outside and near busy streets! Not exactly a warm and fuzzy feeling for a parent, but knowing your teachers are all complete rock stars at what they do, I remind myself of our first piece of advice we were given after your diagnosis “exposure is key” (a phrase I find the need to repeat to myself over and over again) we got this! So, grab your neon owl shirt and board that bus, we’re headed out to find some exposure at the museum! It's field trip time!

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Starting with that big yellow bus. We’ve been here before, it comes with its own built-in sensory distress triggers from the smell, to sound, to unexpected bumps in the road…well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention today you rode the bus like a boss. What sensory distractions?! Nope, just you and a window happily watching the world whiz by. Off to a great start Ad!

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As you approached the museum you could see dozens of buses lined up unloading swarms of children, all being ushered into single file lines. As luck would have it everybody and their brother decided they’d all come here today! Bring on the crowds – says no special needs parent or teacher ever.

Our bus stopped, and the doors flung open, no swarms of children here instead out jumped 6 brightly dressed kiddos a little perplexed by their destination, but ready to go!

We made our way closer to the chaos of classes trying to get organized and have now discovered another layer of sensory overload, rows of ROTC students were there shouting things in unison. Kind of a neat thing to hear and see unless you’re a 7yr old with a hypersensitive auditory processing disorder.

Deep breaths. Exposure is key.

Now luckily for us and being only a handful of kids, we managed to snake our way through many groups of children, teachers, chaperones and straight up to the door. Yay for small classes and smart play on Miss Cathy for buying the fluorescent construction orange shirts - with a quick glance you could easily take count and keep moving.

As we entered the building you couldn’t escape the noise level. Loud. Very loud. Not exactly an acoustic friendly 3 story building. You started doing your whimpering cry and shaking a bit, your usual signs of anxiety setting in. You were still holding Miss Cathy’s hand tight and not running for the door, so I had high hopes this would pass.

Right out of the gates one of your classmates had to use the restroom, so OTOD style (One Team, One Dream) we all went. I was determined to go with the flow as much as possible because your teachers were the chiefs here, not me. Thinking in the back of my head, this isn’t going to go well - you hate public restrooms! Keeping my thoughts to myself we walked everyone in and one by one you all went potty. That’s right Ad, flushed the toilet and washed your hands like you’d been doing it for years.

My mouth may have visibly hit the floor!

Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, what just happened?! Even last week at Clara and Gabe’s school you were terrified of the restroom and ran screaming down the hall! Not today though. And for the record, you did this twice while there.

We were on a schedule to see a private discovery room presentation, so we wasted no time in getting started. Still slightly whimpering and unsure, that all went away as we approached our first exhibit. An aquarium of fish and turtles.

See baby, we took you somewhere fun!

You stood looking at this aquarium up down and all around as if you were plotting your best method at getting in, ya know really taking to heart the opportunity at enhancing and getting a deeper experience here ;) Not to give you too much plotting time, we kept moving!

We saw it all! Beach scenes with models of crabs and birds, Oceans with models of dolphins and sea turtles, more aquariums with lots of fish, seahorses and even shrimp, a waterfall (that was your favorite) Giant crystals, Dinosaur bones, and a whole lot more. SO MUCH TO TOUCH AND SEE HERE! Thank God for hand sanitizer - It is flu season after all.

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Doing our best to see as much as possible on a time crunch, we found ourselves walking a little quicker to make it to our Discovery presentation time.

Once we arrived and caught our breath, we were instructed to head on in and find our seats on the tiered steps. A very sweet and well educated young lady stood in front of our florescent crowd. She introduced herself and started by showing us the evidence of wildlife in her very own backyard. First up was a turtle shell – yes, no actually turtle just the shell. My immediate thought was - ah what happened to him?! Next up a far too large snakeskin. EEK’s! Ok, maybe I now know what happened to the turtle. And now I’m thinking why she hasn’t moved yet? At this point, one of your classmates yells out “I’ve got cats in my backyard!” Breaking my internal questioning of where this sweet woman resides. Last but not least, she brings out bunny poop. As if there’s not enough poop in my life already with diapers and the dog we get to see it at the museum too. Yay me! When she asked the kids what they thought it was, two of the boys quickly shouted “Poop!” insert an eruption of giggles and you now repeatedly saying poop while happily stimming. Not exactly ladylike but, at least you’re happy.

Next up we were given the speech about being still and quiet because she was going to introduce us to some of her “animal friends” …. hmm still and quiet – not exactly this groups forte, but we'll give it our best effort.

First up, a turtle. Well, that’s innocent enough. They set him down on the floor in front of us and he could’ve given the hare a real run for his money! By golly, I’ve never seen a turtle move that fast! He was like “yup, I’m outta here!” not quite fast enough he was quickly retrieved and carried around for each student to get a chance to touch his cold, hard shell. Sorry, buddy.

Ok that was fun and seems to be less painful (or to me at least you don’t feel the sensation the same) then the bees and fire ants you prefer to touch and play with at home.

Our next friend was making its grand entrance in a knotted pillowcase. Gulp. That could only mean one thing was in there and it certainly wasn't bedbugs. The next animal friend was you guessed it a large, slithery snake - hello Mr. Corn snake or was it a Mrs.? As she pulled it from the pillowcase you couldn’t help but notice it’s shockingly vibrant and contrasting colors of reddish orange and black. Perhaps he was thinking the same about our shockingly orange shirts? Beautiful from afar, but as she moved closer I could feel myself leaning back trying to keep some distance. Snakes outside - no real problem, there’s just something about a snake inside and in the open that creeps me out a bit.  Time to get a feel, carefully (with the help of mommy) using 2 fingers you touched its smooth, cool skin. You liked this one and squealed a little with excitement happily stimming again. Pretty sure this snake couldn’t wait to get back in his bag, he was almost hiding underneath the lady’s arm. As a side note Addie, please if you see these in the yard, do not bring it in our house!

Next up a carrying case type cage was set down on the table in front of us. Our last animal friend made a distinct rolling cooing sound and you knew immediately it was a bird!  Score! You love birds, and butterflies, and bees… I guess you could say you just really like winged insect and animals. She pulled a morning dove from the cage and you instantly started bouncing up and down with glee! Your excitement increased the closer she got, you knew what was next and you were going to be able to touch it! This time as I assisted with the 2-finger touch, I was sure to hold your other hand down so that bird didn’t get a healthy dose of an up close and personal Addie experience! It sounded like it was almost purring as you swiped your fingers on his super soft feathers. You LOVED this! A perfect end to the introduction of animal friends today!

I’m happy to report our presentation about local wildlife was “wildly” successful!  See what I did there ;) No animals were harmed, nor did we start a stampede of reptiles – bonus! And you were all REALLY engaged and enjoyed seeing these cool creatures! Win, win & win!

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Next up was lunch, a few more exhibits, then back on the big yellow bus to head back to school! A day of successful education and fun was had by all!

So, Addie, you got a healthy dose of exposure on a field trip downtown this week. What started off seeming a little unsure to you, was all fun in the end.

Great job baby girl! And just remember what I said about those snakes.

Love,

Mom