One of the stereotypes of people with autism is that they are very rigid in their schedules and that routines are a big source of comfort. This is true for T to some extent, but most of the time he's a pretty easy-going guy. But yesterday I inadvertantly threw him a curve ball, and I learned my lesson!
We had a lovely afternoon shopping at a local mall - new to us both, so there was lots to explore. He's usually "on edge" (as I describe it) in situations like this: pretty stable, but very active with lots of wandering, galloping, vocalizing & flapping of hands. I try not to test him or thwart him too much in these situations. We can have a very nice time if I follow his lead and gently direct him when necessary. I'm used to this and really, I don't even see other people staring anymore. Most of the time, people get that he's different and are really nice about it, and that is lovely. I've found this to be especially true in our new city.
So after about 2 hours of meandering - and he was great, stayed with me or at least nearby - we decided it was time for daddy to meet us at Fancy-ish Chain Restaurant. Rob packed his dinner at home (what a gem of a guy) and we were to get a table. In normal, everyday circumstances for typical folks, this is not a big deal. I just didn't think about the fact that we'd be sitting down at a restaurant table without his dinner immediately available.
We sat down, and T reached for the backpack. Immediately, I knew this could be cause for trouble. Nope, I don't have your dinner. Daddy is bringing it. So T gets agitated and leans further over to get backpack. I show him there is no dinner in there. Daddy is bringing it. Oh geez, he's escalating. T is surely thinking "We're at a restaurant, and when we do that, Mommy always has the blue lunchbox with my dinner...only this time, she doesn't! That's FRUSTRATING and I'm confused! Why won't she give me my food???" and the crying and screaming start. Nothing to do but take him out and let him scream it out outside of Fancy-ish Chain Restaurant. Thankfully, within about 2 minutes, Daddy saves the day by arriving. Hooray Daddy! So, with his face all splotchy from crying but with renewed calm, we go back into the restaurant - and all is perfect for the rest of the dinner. All is well because he now has his dinner in the appropriate manner.
Lesson for Mommy: don't go a-changing the restaurant routine! I got it.