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  • Writer's pictureDawn Neufeld

Shen Yun with a Side of Autism

Happy new year friends! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season! We're now fifteen days into the new year and I never really haven't set time aside to come up with goals for 2018. I have some general ideas of things I'd like to accomplish in the new year though, like learning and practicing mindfulness and being present in the moment. I've already had some practice.

There's something you need to know about autism moms. When planning even the shortest of outings with our kids, we have Plan A, B and C all worked before we actually spend money on the tickets. After dealing with our son's autism for over a decade, we know his triggers so we do everything to avoid them. Once comfortable enough to know we've done all we can and relinquish the "what ifs" to fate, we'll buy the tickets or confirm the activity.

Here are things I worried about when booking our tickets to see Shen Yun (more on the show in a bit). Will hates traffic, so we definitely needed to leave early to try to avoid lines. Were aisle seats available because this kid may get up 10 times during the show to go to the bathroom and we want to be least abrupt as possible. Will hates escalators - he actually fears them. So is there an elevator nearby? What's my escape route after the show so I can try to avoid traffic?

I can't even begin to explain how anxiety-provoking this is and why many autism parents isolate themselves and don't even attempt to go out because they want to avoid these situations because God forbid there's a meltdown in public, the parents feel shame and are exhausted once things have calmed down. And others usually just stare (or maybe glare) and probably think the parents are doing a shitty job at raising their kid. Who wants to deal with that?

Anyway, once my dossier was complete and Santa delivered the Shen Yun tickets, I spent the weeks until showtime prepping Will. "Now there may be a lot of traffic buddy. It will be okay." "There are going to be a lot of people there buddy so you've got to make good choices." A couple of nights before the show I told Will we were leaving at 11:30. I was running late and he let me know it every single 30 seconds for about 10 minutes.

We flew down the tollway to the beautiful AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown. When we arrived, there was a bit of a back up but the "Red Lexus Lot" Will told me twenty times we had to park in wasn't full yet. AND there was valet. Winning! Please know that I tried to prepay for parking a week ago and couldn't. I even called on Saturday to see if the lot was sold out. Thank goodness it wasn't.

I breathe a sigh of relief as I hand the valet my keys. Will went straight for the elevator even though there is a very short escalator ride to the top level. Oh well... we were waiting for the elevator. When the doors finally opened, there were three people inside. There was a couple i'd say was in their 60s and an elderly woman with them who needed the assistance of a walker. As Will joyfully flapped his hands and got on the elevator, I noticed immediately the comments and looks of condemnation from the couple. "Wow, that was a short ride." "Oh, the escalator is right there." It's in these moments I'm glad that Will doesn't pick up on social cues. Already on edge I started sweating and kept my thoughts to myself.

As the doors opened, we hesitated to get out so that the other group could get off first (elevator etiquette - we weren't even in their way). All of a sudden, granny in the back said, "GO." I just assumed she was talking to her people because she couldn't possibly be speaking to me or Will that way. So I say, "Here, let me hold the elevator for you," Her response stung. With malice she said, "I don't need you to hold the door for me. I need you to get out," as she pushed her walker in my direction. "OH MY GOD," I said out loud as a series of profanity-laced responses were queued in my head. As Will and I got out, I called the lady "rude" as we walked towards the entrance. Will was calm at the moment. I knew if I'd responded the way I wanted to, things would've gone from bad to worse really quickly. But now I've learned I've got to add a plan for "old *ss crachity b*tches on elevators' to my event contingency plans.

It was hard for me to enjoy the show. My mind was racing with all of the thing I should've said. Finally, I woosahed and focused on the moment (really hoping I'd run into granny afterward) so I could enjoy the rest of the show.

Shen Yun. The words mean, "the beauty of divine beings dancing." Divine and beautiful it is. The Chinese dance ensemble uses music and a super colorful and creative interactive background to tell stories about China through dance. The irony is that the dance company is based out of New York because they wouldn't actually be able to perform Shen Yun in China due to it's content. The dances change every year, but this year's show seemed to focus on unrest, government action and our obsession with technology. But there was a message of hope and the power faith, all portrayed through dance that was at times incredibly powerful and delicate at others. The audience is also treated to three musical performances that are breathtaking.

I love this show and I can't wait to go back next year. I think it's appropriate for kids but not really small children. The show isn't that long and there's a 15 minute intermission. There were some moments that portrayed violence and I think older kids would absolutely get the message but younger children won't.There is some great information about the show on their website so check it out. I can't wait to see what they do next year and yeah, this happy kid will be coming with me.

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