I've been brooding a bit this weekend. I know, shocking, right? I had a huge high with Caleb's recent evaluation results, and then I got a little thrown off by something he did Saturday night. One of the positives of Caleb's situation is that he's a little atypical in a lot of ways. I feel a little guilty sometimes, reading about the struggles of other parents, when my son presents little of the most common major problems. No rocking, no head banging or self injury, no screaming fits, no rigid attachment to schedules. But as much of a blessing as it was to catch his condition so early, it was also a curse, in a way - I don't know what to expect. Being so young, he's still unaware of a lot of things, so who knows what may become a problem and when - and how he'll deal with it when the time comes.
We have a mat that we put down on the bottom of the kids' bathtub to keep them from slipping, which I take out once a week to wash (Side note: Silverfish: Creepiest. Things. Ever.) Anyway, the mat was being laundered at bathtime, so we had to do without. The minute Caleb saw the tub, he started crying. Covering his ears, and crying. And my heart plummeted. I knew it was the lack of the mat that had him upset, and it was such a helpless feeling. My head told me to calm down and power through it - he was never going to understand that change was okay if he was never faced with change and allowed to deal with it. My heart wanted to run into the laundry room and rip that stupid mat out of the still-running machine. Still another part of me reminded me that hey, my kids are quirky. My 3-year old was terrified of my mom's garden tub until he turned 3. Literally, it was like trying to bathe a cat in that thing. Maybe my kids have some sort of fiberglass bathing instrument phobia. It's possible, right? TLC is in the business of outing people who do weird stuff all the time! My kids are positively bland in comparison to some of that stuff.
Needless to say, I steamrolled through the bath, sans mat. Once we were out of the tub, he was fine. But I spent the rest of the weekend fretting. He'd never shown any attachment to schedules or routines before. Should I expect more of this? We are not schedule oriented people, really, so he'd been faced with change plenty of times before. What set this off? Why now? Should I have handled it differently? Where do we go from here? Why can't I stop THINKING about this?
My son's therapist likes to tell me when I get worked up about something he's doing, that kids are WEIRD. Take the average class of 2-year olds and an ABA therapist is going to want to treat at least 1/3 of them. They just do strange things, and kids on the spectrum are no different - just because it's weird, doesn't mean it's necessarily ALWAYS an autistic behavior. Luckily, I remembered this the next night when I bathed him again, and I was encouraged to see that his reaction was a little different this time when I deliberately left out the mat. He did not react at all when he saw that the mat was missing, and when I put him in the tub, he clung to the side like he was petrified of slipping. He whined, but did not cry or hold his ears, although my poor baby did NOT look happy with me. So, I calmly told him to tell me "mat", and once he did, I replaced the mat in the tub.
Look at me, acting all rational-like.
I don't know if this was a true autistic behavior or not. He's had a lot of behaviors that have started out autistic but that he's learned to cope with in a very un-autistic way. Case in point: he cried and held his ears the first time he heard my blow-dryer. The second day, he held his ears and stared at it from across the room. The third day, he stood next to me, held his ears, and glared at it. Now he's not crazy about it, but has decided that it poses him no ill-will and will dart past it if he needs something badly enough. Otherwise he avoids it, but it does not seem to distress him.
For the most part, I am very, very grateful for how well he is doing. It's easy for me to not sweat the small stuff when I read stories such as Lost and Tired's (www.lostandtired.com) and I ache for what that family has been through, and is still going through. As I hold my babies in my arms, I think hey, I can deal with quirky. If the biggest problem we have is needing to make sure the bath mat is down at all times, we're doing good. But when he's holding his ears and crying and I can SEE the distress on his face, I want to stomp my foot and throw a plate like Richard Dreyfus' wife in Mr. Holland's Opus and scream, "I. CAN'T. TALK. TO. MY. SON!" I want to know WHY he's so scared of groups of people, and missing bath mats, and the stupid marching band song on Bubble Guppies. I want to be able to ask him what's wrong and have him TELL me, like other 2-year olds. While his communication has come a long way, if he's really upset, he looks at me with this anguished look on his face and just cries. Yes, he is learning to communicate, but it does not come naturally to him. When he's that upset, the only language he speaks is that of tears, and it breaks my heart.
These episodes come few and far between, but will they always, I wonder? He's improving rapidly with therapy, but can I expect the problems to ever be truly solved? There's still so much ahead of us - school, friends, birthday parties. Thinking about it makes my chest tighten with worry, so I try to focus on the numerous GOOD things he's done lately, instead of the bad.
Okay, now that I've gotten my brood out, I'm going to catch up on Big Brother. Don't judge me.