He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life is easy at the Life is good Festival

Yesterday we brought the boys to the Life is Good Music Festival in Canton, MA.  It is right up the road from us, and I wanted to go last year, but I was afraid with such a large scale event, it would be a day filled with meltdowns, frustration, and tears.  And that would just be my own reaction. The potential for my son (who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, severe anxiety and Sensory Processing Disorder) and his brother (who has emotional challenges that I can't quite figure out) could be far, far worse.

We decided to try it out this year. I went expecting the worst.  We even drove separately from our friends in case we needed to make an escape.  Tony and I weighed the possibility of leaving the festival and coming back in with either or both of the boys if necessary.

Turns out, not only was it unnecessary, it was an easy and fun day for all of us.  We arrived to the parking lots and were amazed at the multiple shuttles waiting to take us to the event, 2 minutes away.  We happened to arrive at the exact same time as other friends, so the boys had pals with them right from the beginning. 

We were greeted by the first of a bazillion volunteers in bright orange shirts and led through the ticketing process.  We didn't have to stop for more than 15 seconds, and that was only because James was already panicking that he didn't have a LIG shirt like his friend and needed one immediately, so I was asking a volunteer to direct me, immediately, to the merchandise booth.

Our little friend staying safe!
After James got his shirt and stopped pulling me around, we filled up our water bottles at the refilling station, and went to what I thought was the most impressive part of the event planning - a bracelet registration for the kiddos.  We were given bracelets for each boy with my cell phone printed on them, and my phone and our names were added to their log next to the serial number on the bracelet.

Normally, it would be hell trying to get either of my boys to wear a bracelet, but because ALL the kids at the festival had them, I was able to convince them easily.  phew.

Even with the bracelets, I'm overly cautious at places with so many people.  It is too easy to lose track of them, especially with each kid pulling in a different direction and wanting completely opposite things and so much sensory input, for everyone, including parents!  Luckily, the space was so spread out and organized that I never felt it was too crowded or out of control.

I thought Johnny would be so excited to dance to his favorite singer, Laurie Berkner, but he had other ideas from the moment he saw the bungee trampoline.  So, after an hour and a half waiting in line (ugh), he finally got his chance.  And you know what?  It was so worth it to see that smile (and he did get to dance to Laurie while waiting, so it was a win-win for him).

Whenever you needed something, there was an orange staff shirt in front of you.  At times it seemed like there were as many volunteers as there were concert goers.  They had staffers running tons of kids' games, and we visited every single one.  I actually feel like I know the woman running the habitrail in the obstacle course because Johnny and his friend rode it so many times.  I should have at least offered her a cold beer. Habitrail guide, I totally owe you!

They even had staff at each garbage station helping determine if what you were throwing out was compostable.  Really.

James did great throughout the whole day.  When he got anxious or had sensory overload, Tony just took him for a change of scenery.  He ran around and explored, he danced, he was grinning ear to ear and sweaty every time I looked at him.  He loved the magic show and building in the "Chill Out tent".

As soon it started getting dark and the kids' activities ended , things got really tough for Johnny and the meltdowns started.  I thought we were going to have to bail early and I would have to (sigh) miss the Avett Brothers.

Love this new bag - good choice Johnny!
Tony and James were happy at our spot with friends watching the show, so Johnny and I wandered around the grounds, exploring even more and dancing around to the music,without the restriction of staying in one area for an hour.  Johnny picked out a cool new bag for me at Lou's Upcycled and checked out the Martin Guitar Jam tent, and then ran into friends playing in the hay.  We spent the end of the Avett Brothers show dancing around, having a hay fight and laughing with friends.

Life was great.


Heather said...

What an awesome, well organized event- Glad the boys were able to fully enjoy the entire day, sounds like so much fun. :-)

Lou said...

This event was one of the best run events I have done in quite a long time. The amount of play that children could partake in seemed just what your family needed, I am so glad you all had a great time. I did too! Thanks for sharing this with me. Enjoy your bag! :)
Lou Leelyn
Lou's Upcycles