Considering the amount of time it took me to find the source of the fluff in Peter’s bedroom (2 weeks), we can safely conclude that I fail at the art of investigation. However, it has recently occurred to me that there is a skill set, heretofore unpublicized and sorely underutilized, that falls within the repertoire of virtually every autism parent that I’ve ever met.
“Huh?” you ask, quite intelligently. “What skill set?”
“STRATEGIC, OPERATIONAL, AND TACTICAL LOGISTICS,” I answer.
It’s true. While every parent has some level of logistical skills, the autism parent learns (real fast!) to develop those skills to military level.
I shall describe what I mean below:
Last Monday I stayed home with Peter because it was Columbus Day and the Autism Academy of S.C. was closed. A whole day alone with the boy! Hurray! What should we do? On what adventure should we embark?
Answer: A trip to Target and lunch at Arby’s. Excitement!!!
Okay. Here is where the logistics begin. If you take a casual glance at the Table of Contents of “Tactical Level Logistics, U.S. Marine Corps, Department of the Navy” (which is available on the Web for casual reading), you will see a number of headings that apply here. So we shall stick with those.
Mission: Easy one! Trip to Target and Lunch at Arby’s.
Mission Analysis: Well, duh, we get in the car and go. Except we don’t. There are a lot of steps to complete first. But they have to be done in secret! Because if we let THE BOY know our Mission, he will want to complete it NOW! And we cannot go NOW until we complete all of the steps involved in our Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Logistics.
Course of Action: Here’s what we’re gonna do: finish breakfast; clean up mess; distract boy while I take shower and get somewhat presentable for Mission; clean up second mess that will surely happen while in shower (involving crumbs and/or enormous quantities of alien fluff); give boy mid-morning snack; clean up mess; oh, wait, forgot potty visits somewhere in here; did I dry my hair?; secretly pack bag.
Supplies: Mission supplies are critical. The Talker – mandatory for communication during Mission. Must be fully charged and operational to prevent meltdown. Drink cup and snacks, in case of meltdown and for use in Expert Bribery. The iPod, which is outdated technology but the only device that doesn’t rely on WiFi and there won’t be WiFi on Mission and therefore to prevent meltdowns we need a device for The Boy to play on that actually works without WiFi. Spare change of clothing: in case Mission involves remote areas in which (a) there are no family bathrooms available, and/or (b) Mission Commander (me) fails to notice key signs of impending, um… bathroom necessity. Shoes for The Boy: shoes must be placed in vehicle (secretly, lest Mission be revealed) because if placed on feet before deployment, they are likely to be dropped en route and lost forever. The Dog Song: for all things that are good and holy, MUST NOT forget to check car for availability of The Dog Song. Said “Dog Song” is CD on which Track 3 features barking dog set to tune of “Old Mother Hubbard” which The Boy insists on listening to ad nauseum. Stroller: may not need, but bring anyway for containment purposes in case Commander senses impending meltdown.
Available Forces: Me. Vehicle. Mother Nature.
Phases of Action – Deployment: One last potty break, then time to inform The Boy of Exciting Mission. Wait for manic jumping to stop. DEPLOY! DEPLOY! DEPLOY!
Phases of Action – Departure: Load Boy in car. Check one last time for supplies, shoes, and Dog Song. Secure Boy in booster seat using military-grade seat belt lock lest Boy begin standing in back seat and sticking face in Driver’s hair. Arrange Talker on seat for ease of communication. Start engine.
“Dog Song” says The Talker. AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!
Phases of Action – Transition: Pull into Target parking lot, which requires passing the Arby’s. “French Fries,” says The Talker. Long persuasive discussion ensues whereby Mission Commander explains “First Target, then Arby’s” multiple times. Search for perfect parking spot, requiring Advanced Strategic Analysis. Can’t be near the cart return, lest Boy spot it and make beeline for carts (his ultimate joy in life). Must not be too far from door lest meltdown occur in parking lot, in which case bench-pressing 95-pound Boy in rough terrain would be required. Cannot be within sight of the Arby’s – a difficult task as it’s about 400 feet away.
Landing Zone: Find spot, park, install shoes on feet (the Boy’s), gather equipment and other mission-critical gear. Another decision: take stroller or not? Opt for no stroller in hopes that Special Needs Cart is available. Begin to pray. Grasp Boy’s hand firmly and make way to Target’s front doors.
Phases of Action – Arrival: Make it into Target with no incident; Mission still under control. Divert Boy’s attention lest he make beeline for cart-parking area. Look around in search of Special Needs cart. If not available, will need to haul Boy into basket of regular cart though he is too big to fit. Also leaves no room for the purchase of additional supplies and equipment. However, containment is always a priority. Hurray! Special cart is available! Strap Boy in. Begin maneuvering of monumental, tank-like, nearly undriveable vehicle, AKA “Special Needs Cart.” Only ram into one or two walls and feet.
Mission Operation – Flexible Approach: Next strategic analysis involves direction. Towards household supplies (for boring supply purchases) or towards toys and TVs (the Boy’s second-most ultimate joys in life)? Both involve risks. Household Supply Risk: total meltdown due to not being near TVs or toys. Toys and TVs Risk: total meltdown upon leaving toys and TVs. Opt to take Household Supply route, repeating mantra “First shopping, then TVs, first shopping, then TVs.” Manage to throw needed supplies into cart at breakneck speed with minimal melt-down-age. iPod and two crackers utilized as diversionary tactics.
Establishing Command: Hmm… skip that step.
Movement Control: in front of TVs. Boy is unstrapped and jumping up and down with glee. Movement Control not possible. Shall speak with higher-up Commander to suggest elimination of this step in future.
Phase 1 Mission Wrap-Up: Target portion of Mission nearing completion. Must follow exit plan: namely, offer Boy all diversions while secretly leaving toy area to head for check-out. Less than successful. However, Mission still under control as Boy is strapped in again and screaming (his) only makes Commander (me) walk faster. Pay for supplies. Burst out of Target, push 500-pound tank-like special needs cart uphill towards car, apply brake lest 500-pound tank-like special needs cart zoom back down hill towards certain collision and mayhem, unload supplies into vehicle, unload Boy, strap him into booster with military grade seat belt lock, run 500-pound tank-like special needs cart to cart return, run back to car.
“Dog Song,” says the Talker. AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!
Phase 2: Arby’s. Start engine, attempting to control panting and sweating. Drive 400 feet. “French fries,” says the Talker. Pull into Arby’s parking lot, running through Tactical Logistics Operations Procedures for Phase 2 of Mission. (Park car, gather equipment, drag Boy into restaurant, attempt to contain Boy while ordering, find seat, listen to “French fries, french fries” while waiting for food to be ready, determine how to contain Boy to go get food once it’s ready, determine how to contain crumbs once food is ready…).
Oh, forget it! Am going through Drive-Thru! (Example of flexibility.)
Debriefing: Arrive home completely drained and exhausted and attempt to take Power Nap while Boy destroys house.
The Untapped Workforce: SO… now do you see? Do you see how NASA and the FBI and Special Ops Forces have totally dropped the ball in discovering this supply of qualified and dedicated Tactical Logistics Operators? We – the parents of autism kids – have some SKILLS.
Let me just say: my Tactical Logistics Operations Skills are pretty darn good. But when I start to pat myself on the back, I think of my neighbor down the street who has a set of 6-year-old twins with autism. And they are runners. I can just imagine the Tactical Logistics Operations that go down in THAT family! They could RUN the FBI!!!