As the holiday approached I explained how we were going to get to our destination. A direct flight to Corfu after which we were picking up two hire cars.  (Two small cars are a lot cheaper to hire than one people carrier and seeing as we are a family of 6 we went for the two car option). This meant that I was going to be driving from Corfu airport, through the main city and along the very winding coastal road, with numerous hairpin bends along cliff edges, for about 50 minutes, at night! I was pretty worried and anxious about this last leg of the journey.

This trip was going to be the first time Edward and the twins had flown. Edward started looking into flying. He did it in his normal thorough manner. He started researching about aeroplanes. He became fascinated with plane crashes. He knew about black boxes and flight recorders. He learned about the different safety features introduced after each disaster. He found out where the safest place to sit on the aircraft would be. He and Seb even started making Lego aeroplanes and crashing them into each other. He didn't appear anxious at all, but his incessant talk about plane crashes wasn't exactly relaxing for the rest of the family. Leila, in particular, found it distressing and pleaded with us to make him stop, we tried.

Children with autism tend to have poor theory of mind. Theory of mind is the ability to know what another person might be thinking or feeling. If you have good theory of mind you will be very aware of how the words you speak and the actions you take will affect other people. It's basically having the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Edward couldn't, at that time, understand why talking about aeroplane disasters were causing Leila to get so incredibly cross with him. He just knew that what he was saying was making her cross. I suspect that he carried on talking about plane crashes for the pure fascination and pleasure of having the power to wind her up.  I don't think he really fully appreciated why it was making her so cross though.

Before we got to the airport I realised I was going to have to provide some theory of mind training. I set a rule. The rule was, "Edward, you are not allowed to talk about aeroplane safety or aeroplane disasters when we are at the airport or when we are on the aeroplane". He wanted to know why I was setting a rule. I explained that other people would not like hearing him speak about aeroplane disasters or aeroplane safety because it would make them feel anxious about their journey.  Edward thought that this was ridiculous, "hearing me talk about disasters won't make a disaster more likely to happen!” I agreed that this was true, but stressed that even hearing about aeroplane disasters would make most people feel unhappy and worried if they were about to go on, or were already on an aeroplane. I told him that even though this seemed irrational to him it was how most people thought. I told him that he needed to learn to think about how he affected other people’s feelings through the words he said. He did brilliantly. I was so proud. Not once did he mention aeroplanes on the entire journey. It was a relief.

We arrived safely at Corfu airport and joined the queue for the car hire. I could feel my heart beating and my head pounding as I tried to deal with my rising anxiety about driving to our destination.  Edward turned to me and said very matter of factly, "Mum, we are now entering the most dangerous phase of our journey".  As my face whitened, Nick announced that Edward and Leila would be travelling in his car!

I took the twins, who being attuned to my stress levels, wisely sat in silence in the back of my car as we tailed Nick in his.  We arrived after a fairly hair raising journey ending with the narrowest, windiest, hilliest, house lined road I have ever driven along.  I was physically shaking when I got out of the car but once we had settled in we had a fantastic holiday and by the end of it I was driving like a local, well almost.

Lynne is a Speech and Language Therapist and a mother to 4 children. Her eldest son is on the Autistic Spectrum. Lynne has a blog full of funny tales of family life dotted with little nuggets of wisdom.