Autism & a Fresh Start
Autism and a "fresh start" don't generally go together......at all!
Autism has so many facets that differ from one diagnosis to another, but one thing is common for the majority of those with autism-the need for sameness (I've mentioned this before). So, you can see why a "fresh start" could read more like "complete end of the world!" to someone with autism.
The need for sameness comes from a desire to want to comfort oneself, or to feel control over unsure situations. It's a comfort thing.
I generally anticipate change for my autistic son with a fairly large knot in my stomach, fingers crossed, and many prayers said.
In Caleb's nine years of life, we've moved 8 times....so, he gets a little anxious if he sees me putting things into a box, and will usually (very loudly and mono-toned) say "Caleb is not to move!?" (it really is a question, and a statement all at once).
Or if I decide to go crazy and add a little something different to our pasta sauce, Caleb is sure to find each bit of newness and proclaim (again, loudly, and mono-toned), "Caleb is not to eat spinach!" (p.s., I just throw the sauce into the blender now so he can't see what I've snuck in....muua-ha-ha) :)
Caleb has been wearing the same shirt to school every Monday (a yellow, hand-me-down karate shirt) because he has karate at school on Mondays, and couldn't fathom wearing anything else.....seriously, for 3 years.... (it was big when he got it, and it's getting small now). I'm genuinely worried about what I'll do when it really won't fit anymore!
Those are funny examples of Caleb's need for sameness, but the truth is, this obsession often means huge meltdowns, serious anxiety, and a lot of stress.
Every time we did move, we had weeks and weeks of meltdowns (2 or 3 a day), and regression of skills Caleb had been working on. If he is un-happy with a meal change, it can get the girls crying because Caleb is so loud and upset, and I usually loose my appetite, and am also upset, and Caleb often has to go to bed early because he can't calm down. And the karate shirt? Well, if I forgot to do his laundry and he's getting worked up, he just wears to school a wrinkly, slightly smelly shirt that I dug out of his laundry, so, I'm just embarrassed. That's no biggie.
The things he's been upset about have evolved (simple changes in activities at school used to set him off, now he is more able to adapt). Or if we visit family "in the wrong order"; this used to drive him crazy, but he's learning that we see family in a convenient order for us and them, not just based on a previous visit.
A new year signifies a new start for a lot of people, that includes Caleb. When he goes back to school, he will have a new e.a.
Am I nervous? Heck yes. But do I believe he can navigate this newness, and come out stronger? Definitely.
Over the last few years Caleb has developed more than we had anticipated. When he gets upset, he manages to work it out within an hour (instead of it wrecking an entire day). If something has been changed, we can often prep him for it (if we are aware ahead of time about the change), or we can pull him aside and talk to him about it. He doesn't always seem to be listening, and we sure don't have a conversation about it (we've actually never really had a proper conversation with Caleb), but he is maturing. He seems to be grasping that, although this world is overwhelming, and constantly changing, he can adapt too.
We've been working with him, and teaching him that if you can't control the world, you can still control yourself.
For instance, if his sisters are singing, and it bothers him (but they really are not being pests), we'll tell him to plug his ears. He can't change the girls, but he can change what he hears. If we are waiting for the school bus, and it's late (he knows when it's late!), and he starts to get upset, I can say, "we can't change the bus being late, but we can change how we wait", and I'll start to sing a song he likes, and encourage him to join in. P.S. a late bus used to be a ruined day!
The lessons I teach my autistic son are often (often!) lessons I need to learn myself. Gosh, I get really worked up if plans change suddenly....seriously, I really have a hard time coping! But I am learning along with Caleb that I can't change the schedule, but I can change how I am reacting.
Isn't that a striking lesson in how we can deal with people we don't understand, such as people with autism? We may see a child loosing his mind in the grocery store, and feel irritated, and judge the parent of that child, and maybe even the child. But what if, because we can't change that child or parent, we changed our reaction? Could we show kindness by smiling knowingly? Or just not staring would be a big deal to that parent (who is, without you staring, feeling like a fool anyway).
A fresh start may be intimidating (the unknown often is), but it may also be necessary. In fact, I would wager a guess that it is extremely necessary. If my son can manage to adapt, and learn this principle, why can't us "normal" people at least try?
Try a fresh start; a fresh mind-set. Let's stop thinking we can change others, and just change ourselves. My son is learning this revolutionary concept, let's pass it on in 2014.
1/3/2014 10:25:23 pm
praying that his first day back will go well for all of you!!!
1/3/2014 11:00:40 pm
Thanks, we are too!
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Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
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