Once in a while, enough facets of Little Man’s personality have changed that I actually notice. That happened the other day. For those who read my most recent post about him, I left off wondering if Little Man is on the autism spectrum.
Well, I had an illuminating talk with the neuropsychologist who spent several hours over two days evaluating Little Man, one year ago. She felt that he is not on the autism spectrum. And she also explained to me two specific areas of difficulty for those that she qualifies as being on the spectrum. One area has to do with recognizing social cues, and thus being adept at social interaction with people. Not recognizing social cues makes it difficult to understand the nuances of communication. The non-verbal is not recognized, and over half of communication is non-verbal. People on the spectrum, because of this, tend to be very literal, often missing things like sarcasm.
In this area, Little Man has absolutely no difficulty. In fact, he is so intuitive and perceptive that he feels people’s emotions behind their words. Your mouth might say one thing, but if you’re not being truthful in any way, he’ll sense it. He also has a fabulous sense of humor, and loves to get people to laugh.
The other area of difficulty for people on the autism spectrum, is where Little Man shares challenges as well. It has to do with being able to adapt to change. In the most extreme, for Little Man, it showed up as his not being able to transition between activities without having a meltdown. That was him when he was a toddler.
He started preschool at a special ed. preschool when he was 2. Trying to get him out of PJ’s and into clothes was always a challenge. On the worst days, I would plunk him, screaming, into his car seat, clutching his lovey pillow, while he wore only a diaper and a shirt. By the time we got to his preschool, I could put his pants and socks on. And I’d carry him in, shoes in hand. I would have to peel him off of me and hand him off to his wonderful teacher.
Most days at home I could get him into his bath. But getting him out was a nightmare. As for his sleep, I had to keep him on a very strict routine, or the next day he was more of a mess than usual.
He would obsess on things, so much so that grocery shopping was a nightmare. He had to have a balloon. Or he had to have an American flag. Or he had to have this or that. When he was disappointed or let down, the intensity of these emotions was off the chart. When he didn’t get these things that he had to have, it was instant meltdown. And it was every… single… trip… to the store.
And somewhere around 3 or 4 yrs. old, I noticed that all of his emotions seemed to become so huge. More than I wanted to have to deal with, his frustration or anger would be like a tornado of destruction. Even his happiness was so extreme that he couldn’t settle down to eat when he need to. When he had a play date, he’d go until 3 or 4pm without eating much more than a half piece of toast or a micro lunch, and then he’d hit burnout and melt down. We would leave play dates with him a crying mess. Once we were in the car, he could calm down, eat, and fall asleep.
So, when Little Man was truly little, keeping him with a structured routine with no surprises, kept him (and me) as level and happy as was possible. And leaving him home with Daddy made shopping bearable.
As he grew up and entered elementary school, life with regards to making transitions between activities could still be a challenge from time to time, but Little Man was improving. As with most people who are on the autism spectrum, Little Man has Sensory Processing Disorder. He also has what manifests as ADHD. Many people on the spectrum have this as well, but not all. And he has a lot of worries about things- mostly to do with school or new things.
So here we have a kid with a brain that doesn’t process a lot of things very well, including his senses and his emotions. He becomes obsessed with things, such as the Titanic, steam trains, cars, the Dukes of Hazzard (more recently), SpongeBob, and most recently, mallard ducks. I had to draw the line at actually buying real live ducks. When he gets his mind set on something and that something doesn’t happen as he envisioned it in his head, his frustration and level of upset goes from zero to 100 in about 2 seconds.
But once in a while, enough things will have changed that I notice. We went to our local grocery store, which is a multi-store like a Super Wal-Mart, to buy food and for him to buy a small stuffed character from SpongeBob. I reminded Little Man on the way to the store that we were not going to buy any toys other than the one we planned for. After actually finding that toy (thank God it was there and was in stock), we perused the Lego aisle (often a trigger of want and desire), and moved on to the grocery part of the store. No fussing. No “I want this,” or “I can’t live without that.” It was pure joy for me.
Nearing the end of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, which was 4 days off from school for Little Man, I was dreading the inevitable melting down and kvetching about how horrible school is, and how much Little Man hates it and can’t deal with it for one more day. We can’t even say the word “school” without fear of a near meltdown. Getting him to bed on the night before resuming school after a vacation or a long weekend, is hell. He’ll fuss and whine and cry, delaying the onset of sleep for up to an extra hour or two. And he has either been late or missed the first school day back, a few times.
But I noticed on the holiday Monday, that when I brought up the topic of school, there was no meltdown. There was no, “Don’t say that word! Don’t say the S word!” It barely phased the boy (well, just a tiny bit). And when it came time for bed, there was actually minimal fussing and whining. There is almost always some comment in the negative, but the kiddo actually went to sleep reasonably well. I was shocked.
Then it hit me: he’s changing again. For the better. I’ve been doing a new type of energy work on him for a few months now (as well as daily Reiki). Between that and just growing up, he’s handling some things better now. I love it when this happens. I know everyone sees changes in their children as they grow up. But when that change is measured in fewer meltdowns and fewer out of control emotions, it’s completely awesome! Don’t get me wrong, the emotions can still run high, and meltdowns still happen, but those storms seem to be able to move through more quickly (unless they’re also fueled by hunger or a need of sleep).
I love these types of epiphanies!