When most people face minor disappointments, such as not winning the prize they were hoping for, they might be a little sad, but they are able to shake it off and move on. That is seldom the case when you live on the Autism spectrum. There are no such things as minor disappointments, and processing those emotions can be overwhelming.
Isaiah was overextended and tired by the time he arrived for the SXSW Gaming Expo today. Although he wasn’t able to articulate it, I could tell that two days in a crowd of strangers had taken its toll. Rather than join me in a Gaming panel session, Isaiah chose to sit outside the room by himself. As soon as the session ended, Isaiah found me in the room to (nearly) drag me out. He wanted to check his score from yesterday and hoped he still held the fastest time to win the gaming system prize.
When we arrived at the booth hosting the contest, Isaiah learned that someone else now held the fastest time. The disappointment was clear on his face, but he could not tell me, or even identify for himself, what was wrong. He became moody and irritable. After only twenty minutes in the exhibition hall, it was time to leave. Even stopping to buy one last souvenir, a jacket with SXSW printed on it, became too much for Isaiah, and he began to meltdown. I removed him from the area for three minutes to allow him to refocus. We returned to the souvenir booth, bought our item, and left the Gaming Expo behind us.
A short nap on the bus ride home, and being away from the Expo, allowed Isaiah the calming time he needed to adequately reflect on the weekend and the experience as a whole. In the end, despite the disappointment of not winning the gaming system, Isaiah stated that the SXSW Gaming Expo was “one of the best weekends of [his] life” so far at the age of fifteen.
He is now asking to attend such events as PAX and San Diego ComiCon. He needs to mature a bit more before we conquer conventions of that magnitude, but I love that he dreams big.