I’ve been to Limboland, I’ve been to Worryville, I’ve roamed Surreal Street on many occasions and the Disbelief District is a regular haunt. These are the many places that you visit as a parent of an ASD girl (Gorgeous Gardens, Pride Plaza and Amazement Alley also feature heavily by the way).
You start your journey without knowing any timetables, being misinformed by many officials with clipboards and feeling very, very unconfident and alone. No one gives you a map, the directions are gibberish and contradictory and you often feel like you are a backpacker who packed the wrong clothes for the weather. Oh yes, and in trying to find the right path, you are quickly running out of cash.
Often, you don’t even know the destination you are trying to find which makes the journey even more bizarre. You start to realise that it may just not be one destination you are trying to find but several clustered closely together with their own language, rules and regulations.
So what do you do? Well, you do what any self-respecting pioneer would do: you do your own research, you read the guidebooks from cover to cover, you trawl the Internet and you look for favourable reviews from other travellers. You will take several wrong turns in the hope that around the next corner, the tourist information office will be open and able to help.
But guess what, the Tourist Information Office is closed for over a year, they will not return your calls, they cannot open any earlier even if you are desperate and they offer you no information while you wait. You check the door again and nope, the door will not budge; it is indeed closed for another 12 months (minimum) and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Do you sit there for 12 months? Do you bide your time twiddling your thumbs until they can help? No, absolutely not, you would miss out on so much, so you stop everyone you meet on their journey and you start to share information. You realise, through the whispers of fellow travellers, that even if the Tourist Information Office does open, they have often run out of leaflets, they have been unable to secure the maps and the tour guides and drivers will no doubt be overbooked.
So, you keep putting one foot in front of the other, becoming emboldened with every similar traveller you meet, nugget of information you find at the side of the road or tip you overhear.
With each step, you become more confident, you find out that there is a huge, supportive group of travellers who are there with you every step of the way, not only do your paths cross by, they synergistically merge. Your steps become their steps, your focus becomes their focus and slowly, slowly over time you get an inkling that these fellow travellers can teach you so much more than the Tourist information Office could ever have done.
The journey is arduous and never ending, but with the fellow travellers at your side, you start to raise your gaze from the road and see the beauty of the trees and flowers around you. All the worry has kept your head bent downwards: relax, look up, breathe in and realise that wherever the journey takes you, it is going to be marvellous.