I've been wondering lately why I feel so upset and unsettled about Little Guy and his struggles with Asperger's Syndrome. After all, there are children going through much worse things like cancer, organ transplants, and degenerative diseases. Illnesses that are life and death situations. Luckily, Little Guy is healthy, and although on the autism spectrum, he is fairly high functioning.
So why do I feel on edge all of the time?
I've decided it's the unpredictability of our situation which makes it feel so difficult. Not knowing when and how Little Guy is going to handle situations. Not knowing what might set him off. Realizing that even with careful planning, something unexpected can undo all of my preparations.
Something as simple as a piece of paper.
Last week in preschool, we were singing a counting song involving pieces of paper. During the course of the song, the teacher selects a few students at a time to pick a piece of paper. This continues until ten are picked in all. In order to make the song more inviting, we use scrapbook paper for the kids to choose from. Little Guy really wanted to be chosen to participate in the song; but in order to make it not seem like I was favoring my son, I decided to choose him on the last turn.
Little did I know he'd already decided on the piece of paper he'd wanted - and it was gone when his turn came. One thing about kids on the spectrum is that once they have something fixed in their mind, it is extremely difficult for them to switch gears. If something happens contrary to their expectations, it can be very upsetting. Some autistic children may shut down, others may act out.
Little Guy is the second category. Within seconds, we had a full-blown meltdown on our hands.
The other kids were staring as Little Guy starting yelling, crying, and flailing. They were puzzled why he would fall apart over a piece of paper. I tried to continue the lesson while the other teacher took Little Guy over to table and attempted to calm him down. It was a good 10-15 minutes before he stopped crying, and another 45 minutes before he stopped talking about it.
I'm grateful that Little Guy was able to regulate himself fairly quickly - sometimes, episodes like this can affect our entire day. However, it was frustrating to realize that when trying to minimize potential triggers in Little Guy's world, something might escape my notice. Something that might negatively impact the rest of our day.
Something like...a piece of paper.