A Day in the Trenches of Autism

It was a very interesting birthday party to say the least, however, mommy survived with some hurt pride and an aching heart. Hunter, always a social butterfly, enjoyed himself tremendously. Swimming and laughing, he was quite at ease. Prepared for a quick escape, I drove just 3 doors down to the destination, knowing that a meltdown would surely be at the end of our adventure.

I am always determined to take both boys to a party or outing at least once a week. This is no ordinary trip, of course. Our friends throwing the party are aware of the autism that envelopes this house on a daily basis. I know how stressful and draining this will be but I do it for them. I am working hard to planning a social skills group to help them be happier and more relaxed during these types of situations.

I know that my Hunter is always glad to go and be with the other kids. He really loves to be into all kinds of social settings, however, he is always the one that is the loudest laugher and stands out with all his hand flapping. He is the “close talker” person we all know and have met. But he is really a sweet, loving curious little man. I love to take him out to their parties, cause he has such a smile when we are there.

My Tristan, or T as we call him often, is not really on the same social network at all. He is much better than 6 months ago. However, I know this will be a painful experience for him in the end. He loves our friends but the giant group, loud sounds, smell of grills, bright sun, and all the other sensory aspects are so painful for him. I know that people there we don’t know will surely think i am not able to control my son.

As soon as we go, Hunter is at ease. He easily seperates from mommy eager to play with his friends. My baby boy T, however, is huddled against me covering his head with his faithful “Bear Bear” that goes literally everywhere. I know that people see him as shy at first. Typically, he flies around new place looking and touching everything. Exploring as much as he can.

Then he doesn’t know what to do. He can’t stay with the kids cause he doesn’t know what to do with them. Inevitablely, he ends up by himself with mommy, where he feels safe. I see another mom in a quiet area of the house with another boy the same age. She comments”boy he keeps you busy, he makes me tired just watching”. I reply” this is it all day long”. She kind of looks puzzled and then the pity shows. I know she is thinking something is just not right. I have seen this many times before.

After he is had way too much sensory overload, he decides he doesn’t want to wear clothes to swim with the kids and starts to cry. I know this is the “5 minute warning signal”. However, our friends help squeeze him into his floating life jacket. In the process, he is pinching, kicking, crying, and now we have a live audience watching this. This is the part I hate the most. I know he is in misery all his nerves set on fire from all the sensory input he can not unscramble.

We struggle on to get him into his life vest and he headbutts me as hard as he can in the face. I see stars and almost black out but I refuse to give up on him. I finally get him in the pool and try to calm him by throwing in the air, cause I know this is his favorite. This is the end for him I know. I gather up all I can because this time my husband couldn’t come. He is in total meltdown now and possibly could fall out of my arms and crack his skull. Now, everyone that wasn’t staring is. They all know something isn’t right or look at me “like wow”.

Once I pull him out of the situation, he quickly calms down, however, that is not always the case. This meltdown could have been minutes to up to 2 hours and possibly ended in injury, as they have in the past. People always seem to look at you”like why would you bring that bad kid out?” Most people can’t pick out a regular everday fit from an autistic meltdown. But they are very different. So the next time you see a child in public having a so called “fit”, think about what might possibly be going on for that child.

In an autistic world, they live for predictability, and the social outings, parties and holidays are not within their safety zone of that predictability. EVERYTHING is overwhelming once the normal schedule is disrupted. I will try my best to prepare my babies for these situations and I also want to prepare the public for better understanding of why these outbursts happen. I have learned to dread and love outings with my kids. I love to see them open up and grow, but I hate to see their pain and not be able to help or have others look down on my children.

This is the one thing with autism I try so hard to fight through. The pain and stress of failed social outings only gets you closer to getting to one that is someowhat enjoyable. Then they do get easier, but its the pain of getting to that point that leaves the worst scars, not the physical pain you feel during the battle.

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