Sometimes it ticks along quite nicely, cruising down the smooth road with no bumps, potholes or distractions. When your engine is purring like this you can relax and take in the view, enjoying the ride as you go.
For my autistic son, this smooth road is his comfort zone. On this road he is at his most independent and communicative. He knows where he is, it’s safe, familiar and predictable. He needs nothing more from me than simply knowing I am there in the background should he need me, like a roadside assistance card in his back pocket. He knows I’m there to fall back on.
Now imagine you didn't sleep well at all last night and you've been awake for hours worrying about something, so your engine is running a little sluggish today. The road has become harder to maneuver, and see you're way past any obstacles. The bright sun could be dazzling your vision or the traffic may be building up around you, and you can't see your way through. Your engine begins to overheat, and you need help.
When this happens for my son, it becomes harder for him to be independent. His vital functions start to slip, and his ability to communicate steams away from him. His engine overheats, and the alarms set off telling me there is an unseen problem occurring. My role as his parent then becomes like the recovery truck that restarts his engine. I patch him up and follow him home to make sure he arrives safely. Or I become the onboard Sat-nav that talks him through the busy city center in a calm voice to get him home in one piece.