This past few months I've been working hard at taking Finian to the shopping centre by myself...
...as in, without James, my 6ft tall triathlete husband who can handle the physicality of Finian's tantrums with ease.
It makes me feel tremendously secure to know that, in the event of a melt-down, James can hold him and calm him, while I get to stare killer death-rays at anyone who dares to tut-tut at what they no doubt see as a spoiled screaming brat.
Also, staring death-rays does not require me to break a sweat and smooths out my wrinkles, which is always a plus.
But I need to get better at taking Finian out on my own, as naturally James can't be there every time we need a pint of milk.
I am a wobbly (literally as well as metaphorically), vertically challenged Mrs Punyverse who finds it hard to strong-arm the laundry into the washing machine, never mind subdue a thrashing seven year old who JUST WANTS TO PLAY WITH THE TRAFFIC GODDAMMIT!!!!!
Trips to the shopping centre can be horribly distressing to an autie kid as they can get overpowered by the the constant sensory assaults of lights, sounds, smells and the sense of frantically rushing people.
Over the years he has gradually become desensitized to them, but sometimes he still gets overwhelmed and flips out.
Our Occupational and Speech Therapists advised me to plan short trips and to work to an agenda with a concrete beginning, middle and end.
This aims to give the autistic person a sense of certainty in an unpredictable world.
Because his reading is so good, I write a short list of 3 or 4 places we will visit in each trip, and so far he has felt secure enough with this to cope pretty well.
But going to the shopping centre armed with a scrap of paper instead of a muscle-bound husband feels like bungee jumping off a bridge and halfway down thinking "oops! I seem to have forgotten the rope."
On a recent quaking visit to the shops, Finian attempted to shoplift a packet of crisps while I paid at the checkout.
I was a bit annoyed as I thought son, if you're gonna shoplift, go for rubies or diamonds...not feckin Taytos and I made my apologies to the checkout lady, explaining that he has special needs.
And all of a sudden she adopted The Voice.
You know the one, where people talk VERY...SLOWLY...AND...VERY...LOUDLY... to your child, while you smile back through gritted teeth and wonder would anyone mind awfully if you furnished her with a pair of concrete boots and gave her a short shove from a tall pier.
The rest of that shopping trip went as smooth as butter, and I even managed to calm my murderous thoughts with a cappuccino, while the very well behaved Finian had a coke and chips.
It's always a good day when there is coffee and no homicides.