For a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, surprise is the enemy. It’s one of the main reasons control and ritual figure so largely in their lives. Much planning and energy goes into the avoidance of a bad surprise, and the panicky, overwhelmed feelings that accompany it.
So when it comes to doing something fun, a surprise is not the way to go. Anticipation, however… well, now we’re talking.
I love anticipation. Most people do. The weekend approaches, and we dream about sleeping in, quality family time, a special event, or just a break from work or school. Sure, it would be nice to be surprised with a day off, but isn’t it more fun to plan for it? And to savor its approach?
The same goes for events.
Instead of piling into the car and announcing that the destination is a surprise, it’s easier on the nerves to just state where we’re going ahead of time. If it’s a big enough place to rate a map, I’ll even go to the website and print that out ahead of time. There’s great joy to be had in looking at a map, planning, and relishing the thought of actually visiting and seeing exciting new places .
For example, if we’re about to go to the zoo, we can print out all sorts of information – and our AS children love information – to read about and plan for. To make the car time more enjoyable, our son will even plan out a route through the zoo ahead of time, or circle the areas he especially wants to visit. He looks forward to being the “guide.” The delicious anticipation builds and builds, until he’s ready, happy, and raring to go.
A surprise, however, leaves us grasping for information. We’re going where? What’s there? Will it be fun? What can I see? Will there be problems?
Sometimes, as a parent, one forgets how nice it is to savor the approach of an exciting event. To count down the days and daydream about the fun. Sadly, we’re a little jaded. And sometimes we relish the withholding of information, thinking about the glow of happiness we’ll see on our loved ones’ faces as the surprise hits home.
Except, in this case, we won’t see it.
Surprises are simply not fun for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s too much information to process, too much to think about, too much to plan for. There are too many ramifications to a brand new place.
I like to think of my husband – or my son – as Atlas, holding up the world. They are so weighed down with anxiety and planning, they just can’t handle anything extra. A new situation, bursting with scary possibilities, just adds too much to those already burdened shoulders.
Anticipation, however, is glorious. So, in our family, we save the surprises for presents, and revel in the anticipation of the next fun event.