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  #1  
Old 06-02-2012
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Autism on a Sailboat?

I married a Kiwi who lets me run away to my boat as much as needed. Once I was gone a whole year. But it all ended when my son who is autistic and (now 30) was abused in a care home. The only options offered was to either go get him or let that abuse continue.
The two years since I spent getting him off all the USP drugs they put him on to make him more easily managed.
After some military drill (to teach him to listen) as well as strict discipline he began to like it and we had fun getting him better. He ran a mile and half around the lake every other day and swam in it as well. He went from 200 lbs to a 130. We got him a piano tutor and I taught him art in my etching studio.
Everything went like clock work, he astounded everyone. Then last winter he stopped sleeping for a couple weeks and exhibited signs of deep depression, and obsessive behavior. The shrink would blame me for quitting all the drugs but a shrink is just an extension of the money making pill industry anyway and never saw a situation where the pills cause the upheaval which are common.
So I called in the cavalry but they were a dud and refused him care blaming me. My general prac said he was afraid to give him anything because he was not a shrink. Then I looked but found no sleeping pills like we grew up with that would at least calm him down. That weekend he jumped off the balcony in our house and while his injuries were painful we never found any permanent damage.
Then as I held him down because he wanted to do it again I had to call the police. They took him to the hospital where we were not allowed into see him. Three days later he came back to us on all the usual dope they insist helps him and I insist makes his brain dead and have violent outbursts.

We found a shrink who was different. We got him back into the so called school that is really a baby sitting service with peers. They said that the drugs that made him unable to function were instrumental in his well being. We fought but we compromised to the smallest dose of prozac.

My sailboat meantime has sat so dismally neglected with friends watching it and changing out the zincs and starting the motor. Now wondering if I should have sold it or hold out to take him on a voyage to Alaska?
Of course many of the hard lessons learned by disaster stick with me but the million inuences with sailing learned from books are fading fast.
At 60 I'm no quick hand like I was. The wild hairs that once grew thick to sail up the inside passage are falling out wedged between the cushions of the couch.

Now I hate to sound cynical for those who still do but I have no vices at all at this point in my life nor do I desire any. Sailboats remain my only addiction.

I love living in the boatyard in the spring and not so much to work on my boat as to help the newbies who are sorting out the practical from the dream. It drives the management crazy because I never charge for my services and quickly become a fixture. Because I love people, (most, anyways).
I feel rich when I am needed and could care less about money, which scares the hec out of my wife.
I rarely see myself as a romantic anymore but to tell you the truth the domestic life has me depressed and while I would love to be in the boatyard now with my boat, I am still obligated to care for my son (which I have never sought or received payment for).
I suppose there will always be a place for me in the world where I can can feel needed but there isn't any for my son. At least one I can trust where he won't be beaten or sexually abused. And be advised the drug companies see the new wave of autism as a huge cash cow.

It's my guess that everyone owning a boat balances these scales between family and their boats. I understand the normal child can present a different set of challenges.
Still the question comes back: how can I teach someone autistic to sail. He wants to very badly.

While he can retain the smallest details he forgets major tasks over and over. There has been great success's in his communication skills and when he loves something like food and sleep he can be a genius. The sudden changes though can send him for a loop though.
His mom/ my wife of 32 years is worried about boats and if it's fair to ask him if he wants to go when he can't understand the danger.
He is very sensitive when I raise my voice and sees it more as an attack on his intelligence than an urgent command.
In short, the question may be better seated in my ability to deal with my own baggage. Like getting past the blame and rancor I suffered through in childhood rather than his inability to process commands without feeling demeaned.
Eluding for a moment here, perhaps I'm not unique in this. That is to say that spouses respond better to an abundant amount of patience as well. Armed with that advice maybe their wouldn't be all that many bitter bachelors out there living out their lonesomes from spouses quitting their boats.

Anyways, I'm not even sure why I bothered with this. Maybe because I think it may be that autism has a place in sailing. At least in this case with this person.
My son is a great helmsman when not at his regular station at the galley stove or in the pilot berth he,he,he...
He is gifted with good balance and has never fallen off a boat.

Once I reprimanded him for a losing an oar while he was being goofy. A woman friend near by cut me down to size by saying "Well, at least he can something right," be goofy...
In the end it may well be that goofy has a place on a boat and if not I need to make some for it. The oar was found and there was no damages other than my inability to deal with the situation in a non controlling way.

We all hear the stories of best friends going out on a voyage and never speaking to each other again afterward. Not to mention the many voyages that likely end out there on the high seas because of an inability to get along.
Emotion is certain to play a roll on a boat and with autism it could be more pronounced but we all learn from each other if we can keep an open mind.

I recall how before the hammock (hammocks have a calming effect with autism). He was headed into a melt down after a long weekend aboard and became beside himself. He looked around for something to break and then down at the red pull tag on his self inflating life jacket. In total frustration he pulled it and wooOOP!!! Surprised at first he then went awhhhHHH! and chilled out. My wife still laugh about that.
So plant any story you want about autism right here. Will be glad to read it or any follow up. Thanks, Will
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Old 06-03-2012
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Re: Autism on a Sailboat?

I've never dealt with autism long term. You might trry posting your idea on an autism forum. I'd be worried about cruising with some one who impulsively jumps out a window. If you lose him overboard, neither you your wife will ever forgive you. But it is a decision for your family, I offer this for consideration.
You are right that communication is key as captain of a boat, and in child raising. Good luck, keep us posted.
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Old 06-03-2012
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Re: Autism on a Sailboat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderingStar View Post
I've never dealt with autism long term. You might trry posting your idea on an autism forum. I'd be worried about cruising with some one who impulsively jumps out a window. If you lose him overboard, neither you your wife will ever forgive you. But it is a decision for your family, I offer this for consideration.
You are right that communication is key as captain of a boat, and in child raising. Good luck, keep us posted.
Thank you for your response sir.
My son is likely to always be a child even though he is 30 years old. While he did have a moment when suicidal, it is not the total of who he is and what he may be. He has often told me since then, that he never wants to do that again.
My boat has some hatches but no windows and while I have seen suicides at a dock and off bridges I have never seen any at sea.
Mild forms of autism are very common and suicide is not unheard of. In the community of sailors I have known it to exist. My thoughts on the subject are that most everyone has had a suicidal thought and those who haven't likely have other sets of difficulties.
Intelligence by nature allows the individual to see through the madness that is our world and it's not an easy knowing.

My son almost never lies. He has a kind of innocence that is rare. I hold him up to those who would drink beyond logic -anytime.
As a commercial fisherman I witnessed drinking and madness beyond any. Sadly, I have seen it take lives too.
The wilderness offers some normality for the afflicted and the city is only as safe as meeting anyone on any sidewalk, anywhere. I certainly feel safer at sea in Alaska than driving down 101 into San Francisco.
I have posted on autism all over the place. It is part of my life as a sailor. One in 54 boys has enough of the affliction to show up on the radar.
So I believe it relative here but I may be wrong.
We shall see.
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Old 06-05-2012
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Re: Autism on a Sailboat?

Well I admire your dedication to your family and wish you all the best. PLease let us know what you do and how it works out. It could be one of the best stories ever.
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Old 06-08-2012
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Re: Autism on a Sailboat?

Woodvet,

Just saw this thread. Our daughter is nonverbal and uses a device to communicate. By way of example, she can't adjust the temperature of her shower, but she can follow "one-step commands" very well. She also doesn't have the behavior issues that keep some families with an autistic child at home. You can bring her anywhere and she loves to see new things.

Having a boat cetainly takes a lot of time on maintenance, but we stay on the boat all summer, so the whole family (3 other kids) enjoys he boat. At least in June my wife starts asking me to go spend more time working on the boat and getting her ready. Our daughter likes to stay in her bunk when sailing, but we get her to sit with us in the cockpit and stay in the fresh air.

I worry about what happens when both of her parents are gone. You've got 10 years on me, so I image you are worried about the same thing. Her siblings are mature beyond their years, likely because of this (and because my wife is so fantastic).

I applaud your posting here and all your efforts with your son. Too many dads cut-and-run when things get difficult, to the detriment of everyone, themselves included. You sir, are one of the good ones.

Regards,
Brad
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