If I forgot how change affects my son, the transition to summer reminded me.
This spring, my son attended two preschools. One school (Reeds Ferry) provided Tyoma with services for autism while the other school (Mastricola) focused on typical kids.
His “typical” school had their goodbye party first. The modest social gathering opressed me. It was loud and chaotic. My heart went out to Tyoma, who has forty years less experience dealing with noisy gatherings.
Parents politely jostled for good video recording positions as the children lined up for awards and song-singing. I suddenly realized why Tyoma did not want to go to “typical” school this week. The award ceremony and five song show stressed him out. I captured jerky video of him staring into space and picking his nose. He was a trooper.
Afterward, I exchanged banal pleasantries with fellow moms, ate a polite cookie, and located Tyoma. I saw the “aaaaugh” behind his eyes. Two pleasantries later, we tiptoed out of the building 40 minutes early. The two of us went home and built a soft fort out of quilts and pillows.
The following week, my son’s tears began. Tyoma realized that school with Ms. Jerri would end soon. His best buddy and greatest teacher of all time would no longer be there to guide him. Ms. Jerri has been with us since the first months of his diagnosis. Tyoma loves her deeply.
Tyoma processed strain by asking odd, compulsive questions:
“If you have a level one tornado, what toys do you bring to the basement? And what toys do you bring if the tornado is level two?”
“If there is a power outage, can I leave my room? What if there is a power outage, and I have to go potty? What level of power outage means I can’t go potty?”
“Why do people bring watermelons to parties? Watermelon is a negative level treat. That means you should go home.”
Levels and concrete plans help Tyoma process information. Each layer of rules is a roadmap that we build together. We detailed plans for power outages, tornados, and excusing ourselves early from school parties.
Despite my careful interventions, simple tasks eventually turned into power struggles. Tyoma’s socks and shoes fit screamingly tight. We had to re-learn the importance of staying buckled in the booster seat. I confiscated projectiles before any car ride.
Tyoma’s unpredictability disorganized me. Part of the day, he would be being smilingly sweet and angelic. Then, a wrong word or sequence of events would unleash a fiendish slew of mischief-making. Objects plummeted down the toilet. Sinks overflowed and a whole bottle of Palmovie dish soap vanished.
I wish Tyoma would schedule his meltdowns, so we can get through them in an orderly fashion. I want to know the level of meltdown he plans to have. An email suggesting rational compromises would be nice. I’d also like text reminders, alerting me of the foolish things I do that make matters worse.
Alas. I am simply a grown-up version of my son, frustrated by change and a lack of predictability. Time for me to create my own lists of triggers, levels, and plans.