If you have a child, know a child or were a child; you know all about irrational fears. You remember, there was that demented clown hiding under your bed or in your closet. There was something in the thunderstorm that was waiting to pounce on you and do… well… you didn’t know what but you knew it would be bad and terrifying. As we get older we talk ourselves out of irrational fears because we have learned that things don’t change just because it is dark. We ‘know’ that there isn’t anything hiding under the bed and our closets are just full of the junk we frantically threw in there during that harried cleaning frenzy last week before the in-laws showed up. We forget after we watch that movie that gets us jumpy, but we fight for the control of our mind and body as we desperately try to talk ourselves down from that fear. We can do that because we really do understand what will and will not hurt us.
But what if we changed those rules?
Enter Autism. I talk about Autism as a thing, don’t get mad at me for it. Autism is a thing to me and it is not who my son is. Autism grips hold of him with two hands, and there are times when I can see it squeezing him so tight it won’t let my amazing boy out. I have seen him in bad times when all I could see was a shell of a boy and Autism’s dominant head rearing. I have seen him in good times when I could look at the boy and see joy in his eyes, in his mannerism, radiating through him – Autism was there, but it wasn’t stomping out his beautiful light. I understand many aspects of my son’s Autism because I share many sensory problems with my son. I do not feel I am ‘Autistic’ but I certainly have a lot of ‘Autistic Tendencies’ – and I would never, ever claim that it is a bad thing. Autism becomes a ‘thing’ and is a crushing force needing to be dealt with when it is debilitating. So don’t judge me and my choice of words because I certainly I won’t judge you.
So how does Autism change the game when it comes to that creepy clown in your rocking chair? (Yeah, it’s a movie reference and I am probably dating myself!) All bets are off. That’s how it changes things. Anything goes and I mean anything. Imagine that you can’t explain that you won’t be sucked down the toilet or the bathtub drain. An Autistic child may not comprehend what you are trying to tell them. Your words don’t register as making sense based on their own observations and fears. They put their hand over that drain and they can feel their skin being sucked downward – you must be wrong. How can you convince a child who has problems with language while using language? You better get creative, let me tell you!! But this isn’t how Autism rolls in my house. Sure, my son is 10 and has not a single word that he speaks. He can’t even use his iPad to tell me much more than the basics – and that doesn’t include when he has to go to the bathroom by the way, but that’s another story! My guy understands quite a bit. Yeah we get the blank, corner of the eye ceiling stare when you have lost him; but overall he really does comprehend. So how does Autism change the fear game in our home? It changes the game of pain and annoyance. What are those noises that you just can’t stand? Fingernails on the chalkboard? The sound of the dentist drill on a tooth? My hubby can’t stand the sound of a nail file. Multiply it, amplify it, and compound it with the inability to escape or tell anyone to stop.
You have just entered my son’s world.
It took me YEARS to figure out what was going on with the poor child. All this time I thought he was just terrified of the vacuum cleaner. Then it was the stand mixer. He started getting worse and worse with the hair clippers. Now he gets very anxious with all power tools or anything with a small engine. My sewing machine and ice cream maker teeter back and forth with being okay and not. Some days are better and some days are worse – that is when I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment. He isn’t afraid of the things, or what they are going to do to him. The noise they make does something to him. The chaos of moving things around to where they don’t belong does something to him. Oh how I can identify with that! We all have our breaking points. I can stand only so much clutter before I snap and it all needs to be put away – NOW. But what if that breaking point was very low. What if you had such little control over life around you because of your inability to communicate that you found comfort in the fact that you could always count on the kitchen chairs being in the kitchen. But what if mom was mopping the floor and suddenly the chairs were in the living room? And now the floor is wet and I can’t go in there, when I want a drink. I’ll never be able to drink again! And she moved around the toys to clean and they aren’t where they should be. And my world just collapsed because the things that I find comfort in, the things I can understand (people are too complicated and have too many odd rules) are not the way they should be. You changed the rules and now I don’t understand or have control over anything. PUT IT BACK!! But I can’t yell put it back – so my words come out in behavior. I might throw, I might scream, I might run around obviously upset because I don’t know how to tell you that I want you to
PUT IT BACK!
I haven’t run the vacuum around my son for over 5 years. I bought an amazing carpet sweeper that does an awesome job cleaning the throw rug without using electricity. He is fine with it. I use it at home every night. I sweep the carpet at my dad’s house with a broom, no problem. We don’t have wall to wall carpet, how on earth could we? But how do you mop without moving things?? Yeah, I have a squirt bottle of my Thieves Cleaner that I can spot clean the floor with. I use it because I know it is plant-based, non-toxic, smells great and I don’t have to freak out when he decides it’s a good day to lick the floor (yeah, that’s another post!!) Sometimes you just need to bust out the bucket and mop and get EVERYTHING clean. Well, you must have 4 people working like clockwork. Someone take the boy outside so he doesn’t see us mess up his order in the house. Person number 2 moves everything out of the room that needs moving while person number 3 mops. Person number 4 is charged with drying the floor with a towel so that we can get the stuff put right back into its place. Genius! NOT happening every week, but we got it done this week! The boy comes back inside, hops on the couch and is none the wiser. Mom for the win!
Why won’t he go into the bathroom without acting funny though? The poor child is acting like the boogie man is hiding in the shower. For three days I watched this child’s anxiety over going in and out of the bathroom and could not figure out what was going on. All the usual things that trigger problems were in their proper place, but still he acted funny about being in there. Finally I mention something to my teenager to get a second opinion.
“The mop never got put away.” He tells me. I never even noticed.
And the mop is evil – because it causes chaos.
That poor boy was waiting for three days for me to rock his world – oh the irony.