Monday, October 17, 2011

When Reality Sets In

Little Guy has many strengths.
His vocabulary skills are impressive (he used the word recognized in context just this morning), he has above average intelligence, and he is physically coordinated and strong. If you were to base an opinion of Little Guy on looks alone, or even by a brief interaction with him, you would probably be blissfully ignorant of the struggles he faces.

In fact, sometimes there are hours - or even a day - when things are flowing well with Little Guy and I can almost forget what a challenge his diagnosis can be.

I use the word almost because something always happens to pull me back to reality.

I experienced two of these moments today. The first happened during church. Sundays are extremely difficult for Little Guy as he is expected to sit quietly in a room filled with people. It's an ongoing challenge, but we've developed strategies to help him cope. After the main meeting, our congregation breaks into classes for men, women, and kids. The children spend the first part singing and doing other activities together before breaking into smaller groups for lessons. The large group time is definitely the hardest for Little Guy to handle, as the room is very crowded and the noise level can grow loud. I am in attendance weekly as the pianist for singing time, and I have to admit it's often hard for me to watch Little Guy's antics; although sometimes, it's because I'm trying so hard not to laugh. Today the children were practicing music for a special program held for the adults in a couple of weeks. Little Guy usually has little interest in singing the songs, and I was worried about him knowing the words. So I took him aside before church and asked him if he could try his very best to sing. He promised he would.

Apparently, Little Guy has been listening to the songs. At least, enough to know each word that comes at the end of a phrase. He would SAY the word quite loudly off-key, and often just after the rest of children finished singing it. At one point, the chorister was encouraging the kids to sing louder. It must have become too loud for Little Guy because he SCREAMED the word before yelling, "Stop being so loud!" at the other children and running to me for comfort.

Poor kid.

Poor mom.

When it's time for the program, Little Guy will either be distracted, fidgety and not participating, or shouting the ending word of each phrase a half-second behind everyone else.

I'm not sure which would be best/worse!

The other moment came at dinner. Little Guy has sensory issues, which majorly affects his eating. One of the few ways I've discovered to help him get vegetables in his diet is sweet potato fries. Well, I was shopping the other day and bought sweet potato waffle fries. Same thing, right? Only in a different and - I assumed - fun shape.

Apparently, it is not the same thing for a child who has a high sensory input. First, it was the shape that bothered Little Guy. As he picked it up, the fry "felt" funny. Next, he put it to his nose and claimed the new fry even smelled different than the usual kind (after reading the package, I disovered it was seasoned). After much drama and discussion, Little Guy finally put a tiny bit in his mouth, which he immediately spit out. Since he was at least willing to try the food, I made him something different for dinner - a plain piece of bread with a thin layer of peanut butter which I knew he would eat.

Although my son is considered "high functioning", it is moments like these when the reality sets in concerning the differences between an autistic child and a neurotypical one. It can certainly be difficult at times, but as I see the progress Little Guy has already made, it makes me hopeful for a bright future :)

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