Wednesday, April 3

everyday autism

apparently, hiba got the memo that yesterday was autism awareness day. and she wanted to make sure that i was not left unaware. trust me, sweetie - i'm aware.

but, just in case i wasn't, she decided to take advantage of the day. she's been a little on the mean side to matthias lately, but i thought it was just to him. you know, sibling stuff. well, apparently she has been being mean at school a lot in the last few weeks. getting mad at her friends when they don't play by her rules. hitting when kids interrupt her or don't listen to her directions. and i know - every kid is mean at some point. kids hit. they kick. they bite. they yell. i know.

but - as hiba's teacher was telling me about how she pushed matthias on the playground and how she punched another kid during playtime (and yes. punched. her words, not mine) - i can see hiba doing it in my head. matthias and the other kid doing something to set her off. interrupting her. saying something over and over to her. not following her rules of the game. and i can see hiba's eyes glass over, her jaw clench, her body starting to shake. i can see the impulse, the rage, the need for control take over. and she snaps.

luckily, she's not very physically strong, and she usually snaps out of it just as quickly as she snaps into it. but for the first time (that i know of), she's snapping with other kids.

and it's different than when matthias gets mad. or when i see other kids get mad at her. it's the look in her eyes where she does not have control, where she is impulsively reacting to a situation and cannot pull herself out. at least not in that brief moment.


we had a long talk about it on the drive home. she knew exactly what she did. she knew exactly what she should have done. but i'm not convinced it will be any different next time.

and then we got home, ate a relatively peaceful dinner thanks to the promise of easter candy, and i fooled myself into thinking that we would have an easy night.

and then - i asked hiba to put her laundry away. that would have been ok, except i gave it to her in a laundry basket. i had folded the kids' clothes on monday night, so i took matthias' out of the basket and put them on the couch for him to put away. and sometimes - but not always, i swear. not. always. - i put hiba's on the couch too, and she puts them away from there. but, if they are already in the basket, and she can use the basket to carry all of her clothes into her room at once, and simply put the clothes from the basket to the dresser, and skip the steps of putting them from the basket onto the couch and from the couch to the dresser - why would you not just put them away from the basket?!?!

because you have autism, that's why.

hiba was not a fan of my idea. and instead of just saying, "hey mom, i usually get them off the couch" or something equally as calm and helpful, she went straight into a wailing, borderline hyperventilating meltdown, screaming at me "I WILL NEVER PUT MY CLOTHES AWAY UNTIL THEY ARE ON THE COUCH!!!!!!". and it just spiraled out of control from there, until she was screaming and yelling and i adamantly told her she could not come out of her room until her clothes were put away and if she tried to come out, she didn't get to play a game on my phone before bed.

as i closed the door and walked away, all of the guilt and doubt flooded over me. why am i picking these fights? why do i care if she puts her clothes away from the basket or the couch? am i really trying to teach her to cope with change or just trying to win? is she just throwing a fit because she thinks i'll cave or is this really a big deal to her? doubt after doubt, guilt for wondering if i listened enough, guilt because i had to close the door and walk away, guilt because i probably spoke too harshly before i left. doubt that i am doing the right thing - in this moment, and in general.

it ended up ok. after about five minutes, she stopped throwing her fit and put away her clothes. i had mentioned her social story on being flexible in the midst of trying to convince her to do things my way (yes, i did see the irony, even as the words were coming out of my mouth), so as soon as i opened the door she asked, with a shaky voice and tears in her eyes, "mom, can you read me my book about being flexible?". and as we sat on the floor of her bedroom reading it, she mouthed every word, as if she was trying to convince herself of it. "things can change, and that is ok for me".

i talked to jason about it this morning, still wondering if i did the right thing and doubtful that i handled it right. he pointed out that what we want to teach her is how to deal with her rigid behavior, how to interact with the world in a positive way, how to stay calm in situations that stress her out. so the point isn't to make her do things differently just for the sake of doing them differently. rather, the point is to teach her how to react appropriately. teach her how to calmly explain that it stresses her out to have the laundry in the basket and she would like it on the couch. teach her to take a deep breath calm down when that impulsive stress comes on to her.

so that's what autism is in our house. at least for today. finding a balance between chaos and structure. constantly asking which battles to pick and why we are picking them. teaching that it's ok to want things a certain way, but it's not ok to scream. teaching appropriate ways to interact with friends, even when you don't want to.

and in a way, that's what not-autism looks like in our house as well. we are going through all of those same lessons with matthias. but the autism adds another layer, a little complication, a few more thoughts to every move. autism adds the need to asses most daily tasks and decisions just a little more than i normally would.

that's autism, in the day to day, in our house. it doesn't look exciting, it doesn't look exotic, it doesn't look too much different than not-autism. but it's there. every day. in one little way or another. enough to keep me on my toes. enough to keep me aware.

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

The line you wrote about Hiba asking you to read her book to her brought tears to my eyes. I love that sweet little girl and it breaks my heart to think about the frustration she deals with. Thank you for the reminder to keep all of you in our prayers. You are a loving mommy.