Alvin adding to his album – illustration by Max Ferreira
Exposure’s autistic author Max Ferreira’s holiday tale about getting away from usual routines
Hello my name is Alvin. I’m 20 years old and I have autism. I live with my mum, dad and brother Ricardo.
I’ve only just finished college and I was supposed to start my new paid job at my local special needs charity as an IT journal contributor. As the horrible coronavirus hit the world, my plans were put on halt, which made me angry and anxious.
The staff told me not to worry: I could work from home and contact them with any new ideas to post on their website.
I have decided to share the tale of my summer holiday, before the start of the global pandemic and how it’s still possible to have a well deserved break during this new normal. __________________________________________________________________________________
On the first Monday of August, my family and I arrived at the caravan park in Essex without problems. I am not too keen on very long car journeys, and I was feeling uncertain whether I would enjoy myself as I have never stayed in Essex before.
Later that evening, after unpacking all our bags, my mum came to my room for a little one-to-one. I put away my phone and listened.
“Hello Alvin. How do you feel?” she asked kindly.
“I’m feeling good thanks, Mum,” I said. “I’m getting to grips with my new surroundings.”
Your childhood hero Danger Mouse didn’t always complete his missions right away, did he? He must have taken a lot of small steps to get where he is as a superhero.
“Now you know that we have all had a long year of working hard and gone through so much; from finishing your final exams as well as what’s been going on in the house. Even when you were little it’s rare for all of us to have a relaxing holiday, without stress and anxiety.”
“Is it like Ricardo’s fear of spiders,” I said.
“Yep. Just like our previous holidays, when we tried to experience new things, one of you boys got really upset over changes if anything goes wrong. But now you and Ricardo are both older you need to gain confidence, experience and know that dad and I are always there to help you achieve your goals in life.”
My mum paused and added. “For example, your childhood hero Danger Mouse didn’t always complete his missions right away, did he? He must have taken a lot of small steps to get where he is as a superhero.”
“Oh yeah. I see what mean, Mum,” I replied as I used to watch a lot of classic superhero shows all the time and all of them had to overcome a lot of obstacles. “It’s like me trying to find simple ways to solve a different Maths problem.”
“Exactly Alvin. Life is too short to be worried about everything. It’s very healthy to be more adventurous and try new things; just like riding a bike.”
Usually I am on my own indoors, but having a conversation with my brother is a good way to build my social skills
My mum paused and said, “Don’t worry Alvin. We’re here to support you and Ricardo on our relaxing time in Essex.”
As my mum left the room I thought about what she said, about being more independent and experiencing new things I might have never tried or seen.
I unpacked an unused notebook and decided to assess how the first week on holiday turned out by writing down my thoughts on the activities I did.
Firstly on Tuesday, my family drove to the nearby market town near the coast. It was a little too crowded when we arrived, but it was fascinating to go to every store and buy items on offer. I bought some yummy raspberry iced buns, a few interesting DVDs and a cool rugby shirt that fitted me perfectly. I even got some cute Smurf toys as a present for my cousin’s birthday in September.
On Wednesday, with the sun warmer than southern Spain, Ricardo and I went for a walk around the caravan park and spent time in the arcades. Usually, I am on my own indoors, but having a conversation with my brother is a good way to build my social skills. And, just like Ricardo told me: “there’s more to life than technology.” That made me hungry for more quality time.
Talking of food, on Thursday my family and I went out for lunch. At first, I was not sure about going to new and noisy restaurant. Usually I only have takeaways. I had grilled steak with chips, peas and onion rings. It was scrumptious. The way our food was served, in the calm atmosphere around me, I felt like royalty. I called it a rare treat.
On Friday, we were supposed to go to the swimming pools at the caravan sight. Unfortunately, Ricardo woke up with a bad tummy ache. The pie he had the day before must have been dodgy. So, while Mum stayed to look after him, Dad and I went ahead.
I was eager to do something other than going on my phone all day
Even though I enjoyed swimming it wasn’t the same without Ricardo and Mum. I remembered when I was young, swimming was a family thing to do when we went on holiday. But Mum said, “Once Ricardo gets better he will have a chance to go swimming while we’re here in Essex.”
On Saturday, it was what I call a ‘barrel of indoor surprises’. Despite the miserable wet weather closing down the attractions on site, Ricardo was feeling much better. I was eager to do something other than going on my phone all day.
I helped my mum make brunch for all of us, which was delicious. Then, in the afternoon, Ricardo and I played some games together, like cards and Jenga. To finish off the day my parents showed us some TV sitcoms, that I wouldn’t choose normally until now. They were so funny Ricardo and I couldn’t stop laughing until the rain stopped.
On Sunday, it was a lovely afternoon and I was having a rest on the sofa after coming back from visiting a local art gallery. My mum came to me and said, “What do you think of our holiday so far, Alvin?”
“It’s great, Mum. Thanks. I never thought I would enjoy every minute of this holiday and doing stuff I have missed out on for all these years.”
I told her I was looking at leaflets of attractions in Essex.
“So what do you think we can do tomorrow?” Ricardo asked, whilst reading his magazine.
“I’m not sure. There’s lots to choose from. There’s roller skating, a show at the nearby theatre or a country farm that has wildlife and pick-your-own fruit.”
Before I read out any more my father called, “Well those are decent choices my boys, but let’s all sit down to talk over dinner.” We all had a nice meal and a quiet evening with thoughts on what to do for the rest of the holiday.
What I learnt during my time in Essex is not to overthink thoughts and, with support from family and friends, you will be more confident, strong and positive. But mostly you’ll have fun!