I gave you the rundown yesterday of what we saw and where we went in Ottawa. Today I’ll try to give you a little insight into what touring was like with Rian.
Rian does not do well in large crowds of people. For that matter, neither do I, but I’ve built up a tolerance that she hasn’t yet. Ottawa, with a population of 900 000(approximately 25 times larger than our town) plus thousands of tourists, is a very busy city. The sidewalks were crowded. The Byward Market (forgot to mention we went there; could have spent the entire day checking out the funky, little shops and booths at the market) was milling with people. Everywhere we turned there were more people. (I spent my teen years on a farm; corn field across the road, two fields between us and the neighbours to the east, one field between us and the neighbours to the west, field and bush behind us…such serenity, I miss it).
Rian becomes easily overwhelmed when surrounded by people. The common flow that happens when a group of people are crossing the street together was enough to send her into a mild panic attack. She starts by bringing her arms close to her body, her hands near her face. She picks at her fingernails and bites her bottom lip. She becomes unable to express herself; words fail her (my daughter has University-level vocabulary skills so you can understand how challenging this is for her). She is overwhelmed and wants to shut down.
The instinct is to push her through it; force her to face that is which is causing her stress. Do this at your peril – these are the words of experience, folks. Are you familiar with the old standard, “face your fears in order to overcome them”? Yeah, not the best course of action for Rian. If pushed Rian will dig her heels and fight you every step of the way. Should you be as
stubborn persistent as she is then she will become increasingly agitated until blows her lid – it’s not pretty. She’ll scream, yell, screech, curse, swear and throw things. This is not the reaction you want in a large group of her peers. She has enough difficulty socializing as it is without adding that to the mix.
When I could see the anxiety increasing in her I would pull her to the side of the crowd (primarily her classmates). I would remind her to breathe deep. I would reassure her that we didn’t have to immerse ourselves in the large crowd. I reminded her that it was ok to step aside, take a breath and continue when she was feeling better. These episodes lasted a few minutes at a time, but could have lasted for hours had I tried to push her.
I’d like to say I kept my cool the whole time we were in Ottawa, but alas, I am human and did get frustrated a few times. I’m a little obsessive with schedules and clocks; when someone says “Meet the group at 1pm” I’m going to be there at 12:55pm. Rian has no real concept of time so there was some push and pull with the time issue, but for the most part, we made out just fine.
Of course, Rian’s ADH-OS-D (as she likes to call it: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity “oooo shiny” Disorder) did cause a few bumps in the road. If you have known anyone with ADHD or someone who is easily distracted than you understand how challenging it can be to rein in that curiosity. Especially when you’re on the clock.
I’ll use our tour of the Canadian Museum of Civilization as the example.
From the Museum’s website: “The Museum’s site covers 9.6 hectares (24 acres). The face of the Museum along Laurier Street, spans 3½ blocks. The footprint of the Museum is approximately 100,000 square metres (over 1 million square feet).”
We were given 60 minutes to tour this space. This meant we needed to hustle through the exhibits. Rian wanted to touch everything that could be touched. Look at everything that could be seen. I would turn to snap a picture and she would be gone (her brother’s worse, he can disappear while you’re watching him). I had to keep a very close eye on her to make sure I didn’t lose her. When it was time to meet the group I had to keep on top of her, “No, Rian. We don’t have time to look at that. We have to go.” This does not make me the popular mom, but it does make us on time. Sometimes I feel like a sheep dog, nipping at the heels of my children.
The school insisted that Rian have a one-on-one worker and I agreed from the onset. We all wanted this to be a good experience for her and it was. Rian enjoyed seeing her siblings. She wants to go back and spend more time at the museums; as do I. I can honestly say the trip, although very busy, was successful. Thank God.
please note: there’s only one entry in the Ottawa series; the photos!! Still trying to figure out how to make it a slide show. WordPress says it can be done and so it shall be done. See you tomorrow!