Our Everyday Adventures begin

Adventure is worthwhile in itself

-Amelia Earhart

In my last post I wrote about a few years in our life that could have been better. I don’t want anyone to think that it was all bad, there were good moments also, but a lot of the time we just tried to survive. And we did survive …

Once 21st March 2008 had passed (and our Discovery of geocaching) we use geocaching to transform our car trips from something I had to do just to keep my son happy to something that we both wanted to do. This in turn made it all much easier for me to keep my son in a good mood. Once all the easily accessible geocaches close to our home was logged we started to plan for the harder once that involved some light hiking to be done and this was something new for us, as we had never before walked any long distances with my son, and I wasn’t sure what to expect if he got tired or just decided he didn’t want to go any further. So our everyday adventures began; not only did we learn that he could walk long distances, he even liked it, and as long as I planned for the walks and made sure I had some motivational treats with me, we never had any problems. At this moment in time we were out almost every day and went on long trips at the weekends. I noticed that the physical activity made him sleep better and for longer, and his sleeping habits changed from 4-5 hours a night to 6-8 hours which made a lot of difference for us all. I also learned not to decide on beforehand what my son can and can’t do. As Amelia Earhart said, ‘Adventure is worthwhile in itself’, as every experience is an enabler, a key to new adventures.

I guess some who reads this shakes their heads thinking that our walks in the woods isn’t adventures and in part they are right. Our adventures isn’t what most people counts as adventure but for us it is right on the edge of what we have tried before, it teaches us about ourselves and our capabilities just as it teaches “real adventurers” so I’ll insist it is our everyday adventures.

We continued our adventures and got further and further from home until we reached a point where we no longer could return home for lunch. This was the next step that brought some anxiety for me until we tried it, and it went much better than anticipated. I think this is where I started to realize that it wasn’t my son’s disability that was stopping us, it was me as a father and my need to protect him; to lower mountains and raise canyons in his path that made it so hard try new things. We pushed on further and further from home, and one day in July 2008 I decided to try something new.

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After work I packed our car with a tent, food, clothes and a toilet (!) and me and my son left home for a road trip with geocaching as the goal. We drove in total about 1800 km over seven days, slept in a tent far from camping sites, cooked by the road, and just had fun. I think this was one of the best times I’ve ever had and I also think my son enjoyed it a lot.

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No more thought about what we can and can’t do. From now on we think in terms of ‘how can we do it?‘ Five years later, we have been geocaching in places that are 13 hours flight from home. Before we started, we would never have dreamed about taking our son on a plane. I guess that geocaching was the thing that motivated me to break out of my box and start to think outside it. I have thanked the people at Geocaching.com, knowing that nothing I do can ever match what they have done for us.  Now, stop reading and go find what motivates you!

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Level One

Geocaching is something you play; for most people it is a game. To my son and I it’s an everyday adventure. For you to understand why I call it an everyday adventure I think I need to explain how it all started. This is how we got to level on, as I call it.

My son was born in the spring of 2000, and I remember being a proud father. I imagine that the first years were more or less similar to what most parents experience, but with time we started to realise that something wasn’t following the “normal” development path of children. One day our son’s day-care asked if we should have a doctor to check up on his hearing, and that’s when we left the well-known path and started a journey that many parents of children with autism spectrum disorder probably will recognise parts of.

As you might understand there was nothing wrong with my sons hearing. One thing lead to another, and by 2005 my son was diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder and as intellectually challenged. Asthma, epilepsy and hyperactivity were added to these a little later. As parents we were sent straight out into unknown territory and we got completely lost. Everyone knew a little and more than happily shared their knowledge even if we didn’t want it. Later on we have understood that a lot of the helping hands we were offered didn’t help at all. We read everything we could find, both old and new information, which was another mistake unless you are expert enough to filter out all the old information based on beliefs instead of facts. Our son’s disorder turned out to be so severe that we couldn’t leave him for even short moments alone, and combined with the fact that his sleeping habits was not compatible with his parents’ made us tired. I’ve never been so tired before, not even during my time in the military. One of the most vivid memories I have from this time in my life is how I was out walking with my son in his stroller at 3:30-4:00 in the morning just so the rest of the family could get some sleep.

When you are tired you start to remove things from your life that require energy. In our case it was friends and social life that was removed first, and the strange thing is that we thought we were doing ourselves and our son a favour. After a few years we had become a family so concentrated on our son and his disability, that we didn’t see that we were missing a lot of things that normal families have and do. In a way we became dysfunctional as a family. We even built a house in the countryside and moved out there for our kids’ sake, without thinking about how we further isolated ourselves from our friends. And so I (my wife has her own story) continued further and further down the spiral. At one time in our Life, my son’s sleeping disorder made him wake and scream almost every night between midnight and 4-5 in the morning, forcing me and my wife to take turns to sit with him alternate nights while the other parent got some sleep. As many parents in our situation find, one learns what works and what doesn’t work and in our case we noticed that my son loved to sit in the car and be driven around. There was something about the visual input that made him calmer, so driving around rapidly became our way to spend the time between work and sleep and some days I was driving for hours without a destination.

Then came the day when we reached level one. I remember reading a short article on geocaching on my son’s birthday in 2008. It was on Good Friday, and we were home from work and school. Once it was time to go for a ride to keep my son satisfied, we drove 5 minutes instead of driving around for an hour, got out of the car on a parking place next to our Church, and spent 40 minutes searching for a geocache. When I now look back at that time, I think my son wanted the stimuli from being out and moving around rather than the car trip.

This is where myeand my son’s life took a new turn. We broke the downward spiral and started our everyday adventure.

The dark ages were over for this time and in my next post I’ll let you know how me and my son created something worth so much more than the sum of the components.

Let the game begin!

First things first

Welcome to our adventure, and in a way, our life. We will try to share our thoughts and experiences from our everyday adventures.

‘We’ in this blog are my son, 13 years old suffering from severe autism spectrum disorder and I, 37 years old IT-guy with no diagnoses. My son’s disorder is of the magnitude that I can’t leave him alone even for short moments, so I have grown accustomed to being his shadow and to always be close enough to hear him.

Our everyday adventures are quite often in the field of geocaching (www.geocaching.com), as trips in the car and walking around in the terrain combines two of my sons interests and it also helps us to manage his hyperactivity.

That’s where shadowcacher comes from …

My wishes with this blog is to show other relatives to people with autism spectrum disorder or other disorders that sometimes the limitation isn’t in the disorder but in the minds of the relatives.WP_000168