Saturday, October 15, 2011

Roller Coaster Ride

Life with an autistic child is seldom straightforward.

Rather, it is like a giant roller coaster ride - full of breathtaking highs and disappointing lows.

I often experience this sensation regarding Little Guy...and yesterday was no exception.

We spent the morning at "Jumpin' Jacks", a building full of inflatable bounce houses. While Little Guy loves the thrill of bouncing and sliding, he can easily get over stimulated - especially if it grows crowded and noisy. We were there with Little Guy's best friend "T" and his family. "T" has some spectrum issues of his own and was enrolled at the county preschool with Little Guy. They get along VERY well; "T"'s quiet, passive nature is perfect for Little Guy to handle.

The building wasn't too crowded when we arrived, and things went well for the first half hour or so. I was chatting with "T"'s mom when I suddenly heard Little Guy screaming. I found him crying and yelling in another kid's face, accusing him of kicking. I led Little Guy to a quiet corner and got the full story; apparently this other child had been climbing up a very steep ladder in front of Little Guy and slipped, accidentally sliding into him. The catch to this scenario was that Little Guy has a hard time when people touch him when unexpectedly. He often cannot differentiate between accidental and purposeful touch and views accidental contact as threatening. Little Guy then grows quite upset and agitated, insisting the contact was done purposefully and demanding the other person apologize and be punished.

I got Little Guy settled, and off he went to bounce again. Things were okay for another half hour, and then it happened again. Only this time, it was a much younger child that Little Guy insisted had "hit" him. I grabbed Little Guy from behind in a bear hug, hoping he wouldn't haul off and retaliate by hitting back. The toddler's dad had witnessed the incident; apparently, the young boy had been bounced off-balance, causing him to flail and accidentally strike Little Guy. I assured the father it was fine - but I could tell by looking at the guy's face that he was wondering why my much older child was so upset over such a trivial thing.

After calming my son down yet again, I related my feelings to "T"'s mother. She told me she understood how difficult it is in those types of situations when others don't know your child's background. She wondered at what point do you try to explain your child's issues or not say anything and just let it go. This is something I've struggled with - finding the fine line between disclosure, and withholding information that is frankly no one else's business. I've finally come to the conclusion that if someone is going to interact with Little Guy on a regular basis (ie: church, school, etc.) it will definitely benefit him by sharing his diagnosis. As far as random meetings go, I usually bite my tongue and hope the other person isn't too quick to judge my son. One thing I've learned as a mother of two "Aspie" boys is that you never really know what the background story is. My philosophy is that one should never, ever make assumptions about a situation while practicing greater acceptance when it comes to others.

After this "low", we experienced and exciting "high". Little Guy has been terrified of a water feature at a local pool which has a huge bucket suspended over it. The bucket slowly fills up with water before emptying its contents all over the play equipment. The unpredictability of the bucket and giant roar the water makes as it falls was a HUGE issue for Little Guy; while he enjoyed the pool in general, he refused to go anywhere near the bucket.

I'm proud to report that Little Guy has finally conquered his fear! Sis took him swimming after his time at "Jumpin Jacks", where he climbed all over the play ground and even let the water dump on his head. It might not sound like much to celebrate, but this is wonderful progress for Little Guy.

Way to go, Little Guy - I look forward to many other future victories :)

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