Most of the time, Autism makes things much more difficult… even the most simple of tasks. But sometimes, in some interesting ways, it actually makes some things easier.
All children need some sort of routine… even if that routine is a complete lack of routine. Wait, does that make sense? Anyway, when things are predictable, children feel the most safe and at ease.
This is ever more so important with autistics. Think of it as… obsessive compulsive disorder with a photographic memory. Now, obviously, not everyone is to that extreme but it should give you a good idea of what some people have to deal with.
If your child can memorize the placement of 1500 items around your house and NEEDS them to be in the exact same place at all times… you may as well invest in super glue because those things are not allowed to move.
So how is this a good thing? Well, think about it… your child kind of forces structure into your life, whether you’ve had it or not. You will always know when supper time is, bath time, bed time… you’ll always know which movie(s) or book(s) you’ll have to choose from… you’ll always know where you need to be and when.
Ok, imagine this.. you have one child with Autism and one without. Nap time is at 2pm each day. At 2pm every single day, your autistic child runs off to their bedroom and gets mad if you’re not there to turn off the light. Your other child? (S)He’s in the living room screaming and crying because they don’t want to have a nap today.
See the difference?
Same goes for bath time, bed time… you name it.
When the clocks were changed for Day Light Savings time one year, my son had a meltdown because we tried to keep him up a little bit later to adjust him to that extra hour. He was mad because he wasn’t going to bed when his internal clock told him it was time to do so.
My other boy? He has a tantrum when it’s time to go to bed… at bed time!
Dropping off my autistic son at school, in the beginning, was easy. You take him in, he sits down, picks up a book or a puzzle or a toy and you walk out. He did what he needed and at the end of the day, he went home. He’d have the occassional meltdown, not listen or what ever… but the fact that there were other people, that we weren’t there.. that life was just happening around him, didn’t seem to matter a whole lot. (this is aside from the break in routine, as discussed above. He did not like the routine change, but I’m talking about how it was once school became a routine… anyway, I digress)
My other son, on the other hand, was super excited about school because his older brother went there every day. It was a magical land filled with friends and games and stuff to do and you got smarter doing it. However, when you’re 3 and your parents abandon you at the door and there’s strange people all around you… that perception of the place quickly changes.
I’m writing this mid way through November and my son still cries when we leave him at school… he started at the beginning of September. It’s not a routine for him yet. It’s not feeling safe for him yet. He has a lot of emotions going on and a lot of needs and, while is doing very well at school because he listens and does his work, it’s a bit heart breaking to hear him bawling his eyes out as I walk back to the car (don’t look back, don’t look back, don’t look back!)
My son with Autism told us what he wanted for Christmas in July. JULY! While that may not be all that surprising in itself, what is a bit of a shock is that it has remained and still is the same wish. See, most children want what other children have or what they see on the television or what they hear is the next cool thing to have… my son figures out what he wants and that’s it. There are no other options. In fact, you can’t even ask him for other options (“What else do you want besides that?”) because there is nothing else. He spends a great deal of time thinking about it, but comes back with no answer. He wants what he wants.
By the way, heaven help us if we don’t get that for him! Yeesh!
My other son… put it this way, when family members phone me and ask what to get for him, I say “I have no idea.” It’s not that I don’t know him, I do…. it’s just that his tastes change, his desires change and, this is totally just my boy, but he has no specific want.
When I ask him, he tends to say something that he knows his big brother wants… why? Because there is nothing specifically on his mind.
What I expected is that his mind would change from product to product as he sees them on television or passes them in the store, and to an extent that does happen, but once all that is removed and we’re sitting around the dinner table, he has no Christmas wish list in mind.
One, I know what to buy for… the other? Haven’t a clue!
That’s only 3 examples but this is getting long already so I’ll end with this… Autism truly is a disorder and as such, can cause much disorder. In your life, in your family… it’s a struggle and no one can argue with that.
But there are positives. There are some ways in which you can appreciate the good differences. Not just the savants, not just the lessons of life in being more appreciative and patient and loving… but also in just realizing that it’s not all doom and gloom.
Take the positives, no matter how minor or insignificant or trivial they may seem… and smile.
I’m not asking you celebrate with me as my son doesn’t care if I leave him with strange people or not… but smile. Because it’s different.