I was struck the other day that I get caught up in how I respond to Little Man’s responses. Often I’m frustrated with what I have to do to keep him calm and happy. And there are moments I just want to scream – into my pillow of course – when he makes a huge deal about a smell while I’m cooking, whether his beloved sweatpants are clean, his opinion on what I’ve made for dinner, etc, etc, etc. But when I was reading through the reports from school pre-IEP meeting, it dawned on me exactly what it takes for this boy to get through the day, as well as how bombarded he is with sensory stimuli.
I tried to put myself in his shoes. I tried to understand what it would be like to try to focus, concentrate and learn when everything coming into his brain is so overwhelming. It made my head hurt. No wonder he lashes out, melts down, and falls apart. It has to be overwhelming. He’s typically exhausted by the end of the school day, and wants nothing more than to put on some headphones, pull out the iPad, and watch some videos. Most of the time, I push him through his homework and then just let him chill (granted he usually has most of, if not all, his homework done before he gets home from school). He’s earned that recovery time. We all need our moments of stepping back and just being. This is how he manages. This is what he does. And in my mind, he’s earned that time.
We’ve tossed around the question whether traditional school is the place for him given what he’s dealing with. For now, he is in a very good traditional public school. And as I posted last week, he is getting the help he needs. Is it easy for all of us? Not completely. But he needs to learn to function away from me, away from home. And although it probably sounds awful, I need that time away from him to refuel myself. As hard as it can be, we are both better when we are not together 24/7. Is that horrible?
The world will not quiet down for him. I can’t control all the smells that will come his way every day. He will not always be able to wear sweatpants. He is learning, at school, how to function with all that stimuli being thrown his way. But I will work harder to remember what this world is like through his eyes, and have compassion when he chooses to retreat at the end of the school day.
Through our course of volunteering with the March of Dimes, we’ve read of simulations given to NICU nurses and doctors what it’s like to be a preemie being poked and prodded all day long. I think someone needs to come up with a simulation what it’s like to be an autistic child being bombarded with stimuli all day long. Then maybe more people would be able to see the world through his eyes.