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Fall Break, Whether You Want It Or Not

Waiting -- that's only some of the branches that fell off out trees

 

In a non-surprising development after the past week, Charlie does not have school on Friday. We were hopeful there would be. Although, after hearing Charlie say a steady 'no school' in response to our neighbor asking him sympathetically if school was still closed, I did wonder if maybe, rather than have to get him into back-to-school-transition mode only for one day, it might be better for him, and us, to go through the rest of an entire week off and start anew next Monday.

And as things turned out, this will indeed be the case. I'm back to teaching Friday so Jim will be home with Charlie all day.

Thursday started with a walk followed by a bike ride followed by lunch and a walk and then a five-hour-plus wait for Jim to return from New York. I alternated watching Charlie from the (open) front door and stepping out and sweeping leaves and the porch and, as 6pm approached, getting out the bikes. Charlie seems to like this 'alternate' approach in which I'm a presence but not an in-your-face one; in which I'm there but give him plenty of space, literally and otherwise.

When Charlie was little -- especially when he was doing intensive ABA -- I subscribed to the mantra that there ought to be no such thing as 'down time'; that we had to keep Charlie's mind stimulated at all times. We did not accommodate, though, for Charlie having his own ways of keeping his mind busy, by 'processing' and working through thoughts and experiences while standing still and staring ahead of him. No wonder he sometimes became incensed seemingly 'out of the blue': In some cases, we must have been breaking into his thoughts.

A better understanding of how Charlie needs to think through and work through experiences -- such as finding himself home for five unexpected days in a row -- and simply to be -- i.e., to spend those five days -- has some role in his getting through this 'enforced staycation.' Another is that, in the past several weeks, Charlie just seems to be showing a lot of maturity. He has been steeling himself to wait to go for a car ride and get something to eat, to go for a bike ride, to hang on till Jim or I return home from work. He doesn't really want to wait and often asks for whatever he wants ('Dad home') about a hundred-plus times, his worry peaking with each utterance. But, for the most part, he has been able to wait.

I can't say I always handle those moments of saying-something-100-plus-times right. Sometimes I repeat each utterance after Charlie. Sometimes that assuages him (it did Thursday night) and other times it only seems to make his anxiety-o-meter rise (Monday morning). Our imprecise strategy is to discern where Charlie is and let him know that whatever he's feeling is understandable, is valid, and then to communicate back some nonchalance, in order to let him know, things are all right and calm. While sometimes (not really this week) there is storminess, Charlie's anxiety (and repetitive speech) often peaks and crests and then dissipates as a result of he himself working it through, and us acknowledging that he has to.

Also, I used to think, when Charlie had a day off from school due to a snow day, we had to make sure he still got in his academics and learning. I was overlooking, though, that Charlie needs to summon a lot of thought and strength to help himself get through something unexpected; that just being in such an out-of-routine situation requires an extra effort on his own part.

Thanks to all this, we've been cohabiting with each other's differences reasonably peaceably and this surprise fall break has been good times not a chore, but some fine times together. Perhaps by communicating (mostly non-verbally) this to Charlie, he's felt much better about snow days in November too.

 

Comments

a parent

That all sounds very encouraging to me.

Maturity seems to come on it's own accord and sometimes in a blink of the eye. We just had one of those moments with being able to use words when feeling sick (http://survivingthesystem.blogspot.com/2011/10/when-sick-is-fine.html). I had pretty much given up on it and then, all of the sudden, he's got the skill. Mysterious as to why, but very joyful to be there now.

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