A beautiful child lies sleeping in my bed. I watch him quietly, controlling my breathing so I don’t wake him up. He’s perfect; an Angel. I roll slightly to my right side. His eyelashes flutter and his eyes fly wide open. “Mama. I’m bored, give me breakfast. Where’s my phone?”
Downstairs, I hand him a plate of Pop-Tarts. In less than a minute, he asks for cereal instead because his stomach just can’t handle the sweet little rectangles. I acquiesce. After the marshmallows in his Lucky Charms have melted mostly to mush, untouched, he looks at me and says “I need REAL food”. I know what he’s talking about, but I’m unwilling. I’m broke, and I’m not wearing a bra. But he is now at the point of demanding that we go to the corner store and get him chocolate muffins, a banana, and a large Sprite.
You see, this is HIS BREAKFAST. And I knew this from the beginning, back when I was controlling my breath to keep him asleep. I shouldn’t have even tried to feed him something else, this waste of time and food was my fault. So I wrap a sweater around myself, slip into my house shoes, and grab the car keys. He’s ready, I’m ready-ish, and we’re out the door. The lady at the corner store greets Us by name. After all, we see each other every day.
Happy of heart and chocolate of face, he sips his Sprite in the dining room until it’s time to get on the bus, phone clutched in one hand. This is my routine with my son, Lucien. I know what to expect everyday, and he has the right words to say to make me do it. Our lives are full of these little rituals and rules, combinations and values. Lucien is autistic, and never short on commands that in his mind I need to comply with.
Lucien receives Services outside of school. Particularly, he goes out into the community with Patrick and they work on behavior together. Unfortunately, his expectations for me are a lot more rigorous than those he holds for Patrick. My son follows his dopamine, and I am the sole recipient of it’s byproducts.
It may be strange to the outsider to look in and see what happens in the lives of a pair like us. Most people don’t understand it. This is why I have absolutely no social life. A life with Lucien always brings some excitement. And hilarity.
When you have a kid with special needs, the most important thing to remember is to roll with the punches. You will get knocked off your feet sometimes. You will be shocked occasionally, and you will definitely fall out of your chair laughing. My son has said some of the wackiest things to me, including what I’ve written in the title and The pictures in this post.
Punishment is absolutely useless on an autistic child. Spanking is the worst, threats are laughable, and bribery is poison. I certainly wouldn’t use any of these on any neurotypical child, because of the damage it would do. But when you’re talking about an autistic child, these things just slide off as if you’re shooting blanks.
So, you’ve got to get creative. You need to listen. You need to respond appropriately. You need to set clear expectations and boundaries. You need to know your child’s triggers and sensory needs inside and out. For example, I know that being around a bunch of other kids sets my son off, but letting him listen to his music calms him down.
When your kid comes at you sideways, saying stuff like “Maybe it’s because you suck ass” (yep, he said that to me) you have to roll with it. You can’t yell or smack them. And you definitely can’t laugh in their faces. If anything, send them to the other room, turn around, and laugh your butt off until you can compose yourself again. Then going to the other room with grace and deal with it calmly.
You have to be prepared for everything and the only way to do that is clear your mind and open it up to accept anything and everything from this kid. A lot of the time you may not like it, but it is coming from a child who does not lie. What comes out of his or her mouth is valid, even if inappropriate. So deal with things as they come. Don’t drag it out and make it last for days. Don’t bring it up later and hold it over them when you’re mad. That’s just manipulation, and they won’t really understand your intentions anyway.
Loving an autistic child has its ups and downs. But if you keep your sense of humor intact, it won’t be so bad at the low points. Don’t shrink away out of confusion or anything else. Open wide and embrace them just as they are, just as you would any other of your children. You may need to earn “kiss passes” like I do, but doing so will be well worth it and you’ll get to know your child more openly in the end.
Now if you’ll excuse me, “I lock you out now” because “This house isn’t clean”. And I need to fix that. Until next time,