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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We're Just Doing Our Thing, Living With Autism

This morning, I was getting David ready for school and we were watching PBS. Arthur was coming on, and right on cue, he screamed "Sing it, Mom! Sing it!" And in my best goofy voice, I belted out:

Hey! It's a stinky butt kinda day! 

Because that's how we sing Arthur. Ever since David stretched once and managed to toot a bit in the process - right when Arthur was coming on. I think that was a couple of years ago. But it's a thing now.

You also might be a bit freaked out if you sneeze in front of my son, because he'll shriek "Voldemort!" instead of saying "God bless you". You see, once we were watching Harry Potter, and just as Voldemort waved his wand, I happened to sneeze. David thinks Voldemort cursed my nose, and now it's a thing.

Every night at bedtime, he hides under his covers and I have to find him. This culminates with me whispering (very loudly) "You know whaaaaat?!" And the "yoooooouuuu" is sung in an operatic voice. We've been doing it so long, I don't remember how it started. But if I try to not do it, tears and a meltdown are sure to follow, because it's a thing we do.

And kids with autism are all about their things, whether they be objects or routines. Especially the routines. The trick is to pick your battles on that one. I'll say goodnight the same way until he's fifty, since that one's not a big deal. But will I let him watch TV for a half an hour before bed two nights in a row? Nope. Then it would become a thing, and breaking him out of it (because we don't always have time for him to watch TV before bed, and I may think he's watched enough TV for today, anyway) will not be a pleasant experience for either of us.

The problem with having a child with autism is that they love their routine so much more than the average person. It's safety. It's comfort. I get that. But life is about choices and chances, and it's my job as David's Mom to see that he gets - and takes - both.

If I let David have his way, he would cheerfully eat the same food every day, wear the same clothes, stand in the same sidewalk square at the bus stop, sit next to the same friends in class, and every part of his routine would adhere to the same schedule. Truth to tell, he'd probably love to say the same words over and over every day - it certainly feels that way some days.

So his therapists, aide, teacher and I make sure he gets a variety of meals (albeit a smaller variety than his sister or friends), changes up his wardrobe, rotates around in the classroom, and gets the occasional change of plans for outings and fun surprises. He still stands on the exact same sidewalk square every morning at the bus stop. I'll live with that one. It's just a thing he does. Besides, when he gets to seventh grade, he'll ride a different bus that he'll have to catch at a different corner. We'll have to deal with that then.

In the meantime, I'll just keep putting exactly four ice cubes in his glass of water, practice piano at exactly 7:30, serve pancakes and bacon on Saturday morning and pronounce "karate" as "ka-rah-TAY" because Sponge Bob says so. It's my thing because it's his thing and this is how we do our thing in the house that autism built.

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