FROM THE SERIES: AUTISM PARENTING
We recently attended a local mom’s group where we were struck by how different our world is from the world of neurotypical parents. We heard a group of women talking about how their young daughters never stop talking when they’re in the car. They were annoyed that their daughters bombarded them with countless questions and comments. The moms were mourning the days when they could use their car time to speak to their friends on the phone without interruption.
We gave each other “the look” but dutifully waited until we got in the car to let loose.
Hearing those ladies say they wished their daughters would “shut up” felt like a knife in our hearts. We remember when we would have done anything to hear just one word out of our children’s mouths. We wondered if we would ever know the sound of their voices. Those moms had no idea what they were taking for granted – what a luxury it is to be able to communicate with your child through words.
Sarcastically, we said to each other, “If having their phone conversations interrupted was the worst part of their car ride, we’ve got a few other doozies to share.”
We wondered if they’ve ever had a glass bowl, thrown by their child during a tantrum, nail them in the head while they were driving. Or if they’ve ever driven for miles at a time, curled up like a “little old lady” toward the steering wheel, trying to avoid being hit by “fists of fury.”
We wondered if they would be able to relate to Leah’s recent trip to the airport. Brody spotted a fair and became fixated about going on the rides. Leah knew he was building up to a major meltdown, so she decided to use a tactic taught to her by Brody’s ABA therapists. For some reason, when Brody is worked up, he can’t process information verbally anymore. By writing what she has to say on a piece of paper, Leah can help Brody visually take it in and he can process it on his own time. This method is very calming for Brody when he is fixated and anxious.
So, Leah scrambled for a scrap piece of paper and pen (while she was driving) in order to write a note to her son. She wrote, “It is raining. We cannot go to the fair.” Then, she flashed this message at Brody in the back seat. After he read it a few times, he calmed right down. But Leah was armed with her pen and paper for the rest of the ride. Many notes were required for a smooth, tantrum-free ride home.
We wondered if the ladies would be disturbed by what happened to a friend of ours. Our friend was driving with her children and was doling out Gummy Bears, one at a time, to keep them calm. After a few minutes, her daughter (who has autism) said, “Here you go.” The little girl proceeded to hand our friend what she thought was a Gummy Bear. The mom went to put the “supposed” Gummy Bear in her mouth, but something made her stop at the last second. It was not a Gummy Bear… it was a little pellet of poop! Is this worthy of a complaint?
We wondered how they would cope with a situation that recently happened to another friend of ours who has a daughter with autism. Her daughter likes to “pick” in order to keep herself calm. If anything is loose or peeling away, the little girl has an uncontrollable compulsion to pick it off. It just so happened that our friend’s mini van had a tiny tear in the vinyl that lines the inside of the door. The little girl with autism “went to town,” picking away at the vinyl. The mom was oblivious to her daughter’s destruction and was happy to enjoy what she thought was a peaceful car ride home. By the time they reached their destination, the vinyl was in shreds and her daughter was chewing on the little pieces. Our friend has an amazing sense of humor and is no longer upset by the loss of material things, so she managed to laugh it off. But we wondered, would the ladies at the mom’s group do the same?
We don’t mean to sound like we’re picking on (no pun intended) the ladies from the mom’s group. It is not their fault that they can’t relate to our lives as autism parents. Before we realized our children had autism, we made the same comments and complaints. We only use their comments to illustrate the glaring differences between the worries of autism parents and the worries of parents with neurotypical children.
More realizations from the mom’s group to come… stay tuned.
For our previous mom’s group realization about sleep, go to http://ventography.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/autism-parenting-a-lonely-light-in-the-night/