I’ll never forget the day my daughter, Angela, called me in tears because my grandson’s teachers thought he was autistic. Truman was three at the time, and it was devastating. Angela and Jim T – my son-in-law – immediately took him to his pediatrician who sent them to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. The psychologist who tested him didn’t see signs of autism, but did note “OCD” (obsessive compulsive disorder) tendencies. Truman was also given an IQ test and tested at 126…at three years old! There was no doubt that Truman was a smart kiddo.
However, Angela and Jim T noticed some other issues. Truman had never slept all night – ever. He would get focused on something, and regardless of what they wanted him to do, they could not get deter his focus. He was reading at age four. Genius? Maybe.
The time came for Tru to start kindergarten. Angela and Jim T were so anxious because they didn’t know how Truman would react in the classroom. He was beginning to show some ADD (attention deficit disorder) tendencies along with his other quirks. He was not making close friends like his butterfly sister, Maeve, who walked into a room and knew everyone instantly. However, Truman excelled in reading and math, yet his fine-motor skills were lacking and his handwriting was not up to par. He could spell, but writing so his teacher could read his ideas was a challenge.
Finally this spring, during Truman’s second grade year, Vanderbilt asked to do a genetic test on the entire family to determine is Truman had Asperger’s Syndrome. As it turned out, he is definitely an Aspergian, but there is no genetic link to either Angela or Jim T, and Maeve tested just fine. At last, a diagnosis.
Asperger’s is on the autism spectrum, but is at the extremely high-functioning end.
We’ve all done so much reading about this disorder in the past months, and found out that Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Mozart were Aspergians. At the end of second grade, Truman was reading and comprehending on an eighth grade level. He excels in math and science and loves the chess club at his school. His handwriting is still lacking, but his theory is “Well, I can read it.” It doesn’t matter if anyone else can, including his teacher.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Because we just took Angela, Jim T, Maeve and Truman on an NCL cruise. This was the first cruise the grandchildren had ever taken. We knew Maeve would have a wonderful time and would meet and make new friends immediately. However, our concern was for Tru. Would he adapt to ship life? Would he want to participate in the kid’s program? We quickly found out that freestyle cruising is the best way to cruise with a kiddo who is Aspergian.
Jim T’s mom was with us, so the kids had all of their grandparents onboard. We had lunch the first day in Cagney’s, and just watching Truman order a steak for his first meal onboard was wonderful. He kept asking over and over “Is this FREE???” We explained that he could eat at Raffles, the Blue Lagoon, Windows, The Garden Room and numerous places on the ship at no charge. The Blue Lagoon became his restaurant of choice because they served chicken strips and French fries, his all-time favorite.
By the end of the first day, Truman had visited places on the ship that none of us knew existed. He knew immediately that the elevators forward of the ship had red carpet, those in the middle had blue carpet, and those aft had green carpet – details that none of us had noticed. He told his mom after the first day “In his cruise ship elevator riding experience that you can only push all of the elevator buttons at once if ALL of the passengers are ok with it, and he had not found that particular passenger group yet.” As Charlie – my husband – was getting off the elevator on Day 2, Truman pushed past him and was announcing “Come on, I’ll show you.” and was immediately followed by a posse of his new friends. Where he was going and what he was showing them has yet to be determined.
Freestyle cruising allowed the freedom that Truman needed in a controlled environment. He begged to go to the Kid’s Club every afternoon. Tru would miss dinner with us and eat after he had his Kid’s Club fix. This was a perfect scenario for an Aspergian. On the last day of the cruise, we were treated to a private bridge tour. Of course, Mr. Technical Truman was in heaven. All of the computer screens and the joystick that, according to him, was used to “drive the ship” were fascinating to him because they reminded him of his video games.
I’ve journaled the entire cruise, and if you would like to read about what a wonderful experience multi-generational cruising was for our family, especially cruising with a special needs kiddo, go to http://www.outtaherejcp.blogspot.com. There are pictures of both Maeve and Truman and all of the fun things we did. Thank you, NCL, for allowing our family to make such wonderful memories.