This week, my boys and I were out on errands. We had a busy day planned and I thought I had packed everything we’d possibly need. Only, I hadn’t realized we’d forgotten the tiny colorful cocktail spoons for applesauce.
Let’s back up a bit. The day started out as usual-with the fight my son and I have when I try to get him out of the house and change his routine…….you all know about this!?
I thank God that it’s a sunny day because he won’t go out if there’s even the tiniest cloud somewhere in the sky. Additionally, it’s quite difficult to get him to wear clothing, but he must get dressed to live in society. We first have to find that ONE bathing suit (instead of shorts) that he insists on wearing. It’s Angry Birds and it’s always located in a place that takes an entire search party to find. (Yes, it is getting too small and I’m beginning to panic because we haven’t found a replacement-pray for me!) Next, the fight over the shirt. It’s a warm day, so a short sleeved shirt is appropriate. He refuses and instead packs the one long-sleeved orange one that he’s worn for years. Yes, it’s too small for him but as of yet I can’t find another one that’s the same. I’m NOT giving up on that!
We finally make it to the car when he screams and tantrums to protest the simple fact that he must leave the house. He carries his laptop and his big brother has to carry the cord….it’s the routine and the way it’s done. We pack every toy that he may possibly need for comfort and to play during an appointment we’d have later on. Oh no, the sun is shining and it’s bothering his eyes….another tantrum because I’d told him to bring his own sunglasses. So, I reluctantly give him mine so that he’s comfortable. I know, I’m giving in but it’s going to be a loooong day if he starts to scream now.
He refuses to go into the many stores we must go to in order to get everything done. They have too much sensory information within their walls and he’s not able to tolerate it. Thank goodness I’ve got the most wonderful older teenager who’s willing to sit with him while I run frantically through the store, grabbing things as though I’m on the old show “Supermarket Sweep.” It’s been fourteen years and I’m quite used to the routine. I actually pride myself on the speed at which I can do any shopping errands. Want to challenge me? I’m up for it! 🙂
Finally, I land at “Whole Paycheck,” you know the store that has organic and healthy foods that sucks the money out of your bank account with only four items? The items I purchase are for my son and I’m feeling great about the excursion as it’s almost complete~ only one more appointment to go. Alas, I get to the car and pull out the applesauce proudly. Now, everyone has something they’re willing to eat. This is quite the feat as it’s taken me three stops to satisfy everyone’s lunch desires. I open the jar and out comes a scream from the back seat, “MY LITTLE SPOONS ARE MISSING!!” Oh no, how could that be?? I desperately ravage the bags I brought on my search for them. We must’ve used them and not put them back. I’m in a sweaty panic because I don’t have time to go all the way home. What to do, WHAT TO DO?
It’s amazing how much we are willing to adapt our lives for our children. We all do to some degree. I speak around the country on behavior and autism. My emphasis is that “Autism is no excuse for bad behavior.” We need to teach our children to be flexible and to function appropriately in society so that they can have the best future possible. Hitting and aggression as a child may lead to hitting and assault as a grown-up if not stopped early enough.
How much in-flexibility is too much? I don’t know, but we have these beautiful children who happen to have autism. Some are rigid in their routines, others aren’t. I’m lucky enough to have one of each. My older son is as gentle as a butterfly and so flexible that most people don’t even realize he has autism. We’ve worked hard on that. BUT there are children, like my younger son who remain in-flexible despite our best efforts. They need to feel comfortable in their own homes and we get to share homes with them. I do not allow “bad” behavior such as hitting and aggression. I do, however let my son have his time at home. He needs that safety net to go out into the world and function independently. It’s only through living with our children (and grown-ups) with autism that we truly understand the down time or “stimming” that may be required to go to school or work.
We have down time too. It can be watching a favorite TV show, cooking, napping, crafting. Often times, we don’t look at our own need for routines and for a creative outlet in order to function. We are constantly analyzing our children’s behavior for appointments, questionnaires, etc. and tend to focus on the negatives.
Only you can decide how much you’re willing to tolerate in your own home, but I encourage you to look at your own behavior and be extra patient with your child’s too.
…..and oh yes, I went to the party store and bought an entire value box of cocktail spoons of all colors and placed them everywhere. Yay!
By- Cara Koscinski MOT, OTR/L
Author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist- a handbook for caregivers of children with special needs. Questions and answers most frequently asked to OTs with easy to understand answers and fun activities you can do with your child. Order anywhere books are sold.
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