School has started and the anxieties of a new teacher and new school have subsided. We have settled into our routine. The scheduled day is much better for my son. He knows what to expect and what to do. The comfort of a routine helps reduce meltdowns and anxiety induced behavior, however the daily struggles of having a child on the spectrum are still very present.
Mornings and evenings can be rough. His medicine either hasn’t kicked in or has completely worn off. It generally takes about ten minutes after he’s woken up for the noise to begin. He rolls, bounces and jumps from one couch to another making all kinds of loud noises. Sometimes he mimics or battles along with what is on the TV but most of the time it is stemming from his sensory needs. When you have just woken up, having someone bounce off the walls can drive you insane. Occasionally we (my husband and I) lose it which makes us feel like crap. It takes every ounce of patience to redirect and repeat over and over to use quieter voices and not to jump on the furniture. The problem is it takes every ounce of his concentration to control his behavior during these times and punishing him for something he can’t completely help doesn’t seem fair. The other side of that is he has to learn appropriate behavior. Thus the struggle to find the balance during these times.
Similar behavior can be expected in the evenings as well. His medicine has worn off so impulse control is going to be an issue. Also, he has worked hard to keep it together all day at school so when he gets home he lets down. By that I mean he stems for thirty minutes or longer. He will bounce and roll on his ball (big exercise ball) watching TV and making noises. His body needs the movement and pressure from the bouncing to feel comfortable. It seems exhausting but for him its calming. Between dinner and bedtime he seems to get another burst.
This happens everyday. Some days are more severe than others. His body needs the movement and the sensory component of Autism makes it difficult for him to regulate his volume. Add a dose of ADHD which affects his impulse control and you get craziness. It’s a daily struggle. We have to be understanding of what is going on with him. But we are also mindful that the world isn’t going to excuse his behavior. He has to learn to manage himself and act in socially appropriate ways.
Socially appropriate behavior is another daily struggle. One that weighs heavy on my husband and I. The social scene is becoming more complex and difficult. Our son wants to have friends and to be included but doesn’t always know how. When friends witness the behavior described above you can imagine what they might think. We are aware of the birthday parties he isn’t invited to and sleep overs he’s missing out on. (On the other hand it makes us a nervous wreck when he does go because we are unsure of how he’ll do.) So far he hasn’t mentioned these things, but its a matter of time. We typically have his friends over to our house so we can help manage his behavior and do more structured play.
He has started to realize he is different and that his classmates see him differently too. Many of his friends are now into sports which our son has no aptitude for. I have tried to tell him even if he doesn’t want to play he can watch and cheer on his friends. That doesn’t make sense to him. Finding common ground for him is getting more difficult. Not many third graders want to talk about science non stop. He loves animals and knows a lot about them. Recently he’s been interested in learning about elements. Lunch time talk about elements and highly reactive compounds doesn’t really happen. He doesn’t know what to do on the playground. They aren’t allowed to run (which is lame in his words), his friends are playing four square (which he isn’t going to do) and playground equipment is scarce. He hasn’t found his place.
It’s just a struggle. As a parent my heart breaks to see my child struggle. It feels helpless to not be able to fix it for him. It’s painful to witness the behaviors and oddities that set him apart although I wouldn’t necessarily change them. This is going to be a challenge he will have for most of his life. It at times can feel daunting. But, the very things that make him different also make him exceptional. He’s funny and quirky and creative and smart and has a huge heart. I see these things in him everyday. My hope is that others can accept the differences and embrace the exceptional.