Looking out the back window at the ever changing colors of the sunrise, I paused in the busy preparation of breakfast to just stand there for a few minutes and watch. After slogging through the grey months, this display of dawn was a welcome reprieve. “Autism spectrum….obsessive compulsive tendencies,” the words the child psychologist said the day before still ringing in my ears.
We’ve been down this road before, though it was a few years ago. Screening prompted by his inability to speak at the level of his peers, and irrational terror by simply stepping foot into the doctor’s office. Deep down I think we both have always known there was a difference. Not extreme, not on the far end of the spectrum, but just enough to bring pause, a raising of our curiosity. We’ve never been parents before, he’s our oldest, so there isn’t a barometer of ‘normal’. I still cringe at that word.
In a strange way, having the doctor explain things to us in detail, having him nod in complete recognition at the descriptions of his behavior, was entirely comforting. No expressions of revulsion, no judgement, no surprised questioning looks about his behavior, or our parenting.
We aren’t crazy. We aren’t bad parents.
Those words are huge. Much in the same way our local froyo lady complimented our parenting skills (and turned a particularly rough day around for me) the words this doctor said, the encouragement he gave us, were beyond helpful. I felt my shoulders relax where I had no idea I was holding tension. There was a lifting of a heavy load I have been carrying around unknowingly.
He shows definitive markers on the autism spectrum, but he’s highly functioning. There is no reason he won’t grow to have a family and lead a very happy life.
There are things to be concerned about. You’ll have to find what works for your family. If it doesn’t work, even the things I say, don’t use it. Use what works for you.
Much of it will be trial and error. That’s to be expected. When things blow up and don’t go well, use those as learning experiences. You’ve just learned what doesn’t work. On to the next thing.
We gained validation. We have some new tools in our parenting toolbox. Most importantly, we were given a perspective that is not of the “beat the child into submission” variety, nor a hippy-dippy let the kid do whatever, whenever hands-off approach. More cooperation, less adversarial. Less controlling, lots of boundaries. More respect for sensitivities to overwhelm. For him, sensory overwhelm causes the tantrums and outbursts. Loss of control triggers anger. He’s not an angry child. He’s not a bad kid. He simply gets overwhelmed. It’s our job to continue to teach him how to deal with life as a sensitive person in a not-so-sensitve world.
Seeing the sun finally break the horizon, I sip my hot coffee. I take a deep breath and put the bacon in the oven. Kissing my husband off to work, I glance at the calendar to see what’s on deck for the day. It’s a welcome stark white space. A blank slate, a square with opportunity…24 hours of possibilities.
I think I’ll start by doing a bit of writing…