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Saturday, 8 June 2013

Aspergers does Butlins!



Just back from five days away experiencing Billy Butlin’s Best. Given that it was five days of constant, high-level noise, chaos, surging crowds and complete stimulation overdrive, Ethan did pretty well.
There were only a few moments when I had that sinking sensation. Whereas he must have spent most of the week feeling stressed, confused, overloaded and exhausted.
One sinking moment came towards the end of the five days when Ethan roared at Sam to ‘stop walking in front of me’ and physically pushed him out of the way. Apart from the fact Sam was worried about cars and had gone to Ethan for protection and so was of course, crying his eyes out, it was other people’s reactions which stung the most. People looking and muttering - no doubt about Ethan’s parenting skills.
The second sinking feeling (I actually thought Ethan might get punched) came in the dinner hall. It was loud, it was chaotic, it was crowded, it served greasy junk. It felt like being in a soldier’s mess hall! The surroundings didn’t make for a relaxing dining experience and Ethan struggled with the noise and sheer amount of people that got in the way of him smoothly processing through the stages of choosing his dinner, eating it and walking out. At the end of dinner one day, as we were standing up to leave, a young boy was heading towards our table. Fed up of constantly being held up by other people, Ethan made an ill-judged move to grab Oliver’s jacket off the back of the chair right in front of the boy. The result was that the heavy wooden chair fell over onto the boy’s foot.
Boy and father were far from impressed. I was embarrassed. I think Ethan was embarrassed. Part of me wanted to declare ‘Don’t think because I’m married to him that I’m like that too. I would have waited for your son to pass.’ The other side of me wanted to defend Ethan, to explain that he’s got Aspergers: to explain that his mind focuses on an end goal, not on other people and what effect his actions might have on them.’ Instead I muttered sorry. Ethan apologised robustly, he even called the little boy ‘mate’ (I think the adrenalin was pumping). And we left the scene with the boy and his dad presumably thinking that Ethan had no manners. 
I think that’s how I might sum up Aspergers. In Ethan anyway. It’s a complete lack of manners. Because what are manners, other than consideration of other people? And that’s something utterly alien to Ethan. It’s something he’s learned to a certain extent, but when his instincts take over, that learned behaviour quickly disappears. Perhaps Aspergers is simply the selfishness of human nature un-tethered by any learned social etiquette.
What I find frustrating is that Ethan can do it. He can think about others. Completely of his own accord, he took the kids on a bike carriage thingy so that I could have an hour to myself. Other pluses to the holiday, so as not to end on a moan, were dancing badly with no shame at all at The Jacksons tribute night, spending a fortune with Sam and Ava on the 2p machines, learning how to fence and having a duel with Ava, launching myself endlessly down the water slide wedged into a rubber ring with the boys, and eating and drinking lots of rubbish food that tasted great. Overall, despite the chaos, noise, unhealthy food and crowds (and the odd sinking feeling), Butlins was a winner – even for a family with a dad who has Aspergers.

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