From the moment we decided to go to Kauai, we knew we wanted to go on a zip lining adventure. It had to happen. Spouse and I had both done it before, in different locations. The Princess zip lined at the Zoo Safari Park for her birthday. So we researched, checked in the travel books, and communicated with the resort concierge to find the best, most bang-for-your-buck tour. And we began to prep Little Man right out of the gate.
He’s afraid of heights. Being next to the edge of even a small drop makes him very anxious. So trust me when I say I was worried how he would handle zip lining. Why did we even bother to take him on this excursion? Hmmm…no, it wasn’t to torture him. We knew he could do it. We knew with the right level of encouragement and excitement on our part, he could overcome his anxiety. So we talked, and we talked about it, going zip lining. We showed him pictures and video. We reassured him he would not be alone, we would be right there. A couple of his friends had been zip lining before, and their excitement at the prospect of him going truly helped.
The day of our adventure, he was nervous and anxious. It always comes out in other ways – sideways behavior, lashing out, tears, anger. But he finally admitted he was nervous. I didn’t address his specific fears directly, just told him how excited I was we were all doing this together, that we would be totally safe, and we would be there for him.
When we arrived at the base, we were quickly checked in and outfitted in our harnesses and helmets.
He was doing great. We had a small training session, loaded into the bus, sun-screened and bug sprayed, and were on our way to the first line. We had two guides with us. I have to tell you, one in particular was amazing. We hadn’t informed anyone at the zip lining company Little Man is autistic. Maybe I should have. But the one guide was perfect – he had the exact level of encouragement and comfort Little Man needed. He knew what he was doing with my littlest. We climbed up the first platform -and I’ll tell you this, when you’re on the side of a mountain, facing downhill, you don’t have to climb that high to get a good zip line – got our last instructions, and were off. Our family was toward the back of the pack (there were three families all together), and we put Little Man first, at his request.
I was holding my breath, if I’m being honest. I had no clue how he was going to react, what he was going to do. I think I fully expected him to fall completely apart. I was waiting for the meltdown, half believing he and I would end up getting back on the bus to the base while the rest of the family enjoyed the excursion. The guide calmly and confidently took over. He got Little Man hooked up, quietly calmed his fears, and sent him off down the first line. I couldn’t wait to get to the other end where he was to make sure he was okay. My momma’s heart needed to know he was okay. But Big Man and the Princess were ahead of me in line, and I had to wait. It was good for me to wait, to not helicopter him. When I got to the other end, finally, I saw his sweet, smiling, excited face. I gave him a huge hug. EVERYONE was congratulating him. He’d done it!
There were seven more lines to go, which was maybe three more than he was up for, but he made it through. He did cry a couple of times, right after finishing a line. But again, that particular guide was awesome with him. I don’t know if he’s dealt with autistic kids before, but it felt he’d been trained specifically how to manage my boy’s fears and anxieties.
We had to tandom him twice, because he didn’t weigh enough to make it down the longer lines by himself. The last line was a quarter mile long. When we finished the last line, his relief was evident, but so was his pride in himself. His boundaries keep expanding. We got him outside of his comfort zone, and we all survived. Even now, it makes me cry thinking about it. He did it! He did it without completely losing it. He did it without me being by his side 100% of the time. Everyone was so encouraging to him. It was probably the greatest adventure of the trip, just because we knew what it meant for him, for our family. This day, autism didn’t win.