“He can’t sit still.”
“He runs out of the classroom.”
“He keeps plugging his ears.”
“He took his shorts off on the playground.”
“He’s licking his shoes.”
“He bites the erasers off the pencils.”
We are extremely fortunate to have enrolled our son is one of the most beautiful schools in Pasco County—not beautiful in appearance, but beautiful in the hearts of the staff members. From the principal to the behavior specialist to the ESE teacher to the instructional assistant to the speech therapist to the occupational therapist to the art teacher and anyone else who encounters my son: they are beautiful. Truly. They communicate with me. They support my son. They go above and beyond in nearly every way possible and on a daily basis, my anxious autism mama heart is immeasurably grateful for them.
William has had a very successful year so far. Despite a few transitions and ups and downs, he has meshed well with the school environment, learned to follow the routines, and is making progress in both reading and math. Writing–I won’t go there. That’s another blog.
Lately, we’ve faced some struggles with William. He’s happy and healthy, but his behavior has been unpredictable, inconsistent, erratic—are there enough synonyms to convey that I have absolutely no idea what the shit he’s doing and why?
Some days, he’s bouncing around like I fed him cat nip. Others, he’s quietly rolling trains and buses and planes up and down chairs and tables and walls and doesn’t want to be bothered with anyone. Some days, he verbalizes and orders people around. Others, he refuses to even use one-word requests and simply throws his arm out or yanks mine out of the socket.
The biggest challenge to me is the unknowns. The “whys” of what he does. For example, William has been increasingly in need of oral sensory input in the past month. What that means is that because William has sensory processing disorder, he seeks more “input” to his senses than you or I would. So he prefers crunchy foods, loud noises, fast-paced rides, etc. The oral sensory input is the one that kills us, though. Because it’s dangerous. And it’s freaking gross. Like he will pick up a piece of fuzz, the tip of a pencil, an old goldfish stuck in his carseat (don’t act like you don’t have food in your car or we can’t be friends), stickers off fruit or new toys… ANYTHING. And he will put it in his mouth.
We have spent the better part of his five and a half years of life saying, “STOP EATING THAT.” We use pictures. We have given him approved chew toys. We have offered him ice to suck on. We remind him constantly what DOES go in his mouth. Sometimes we will happily go days, weeks, months, with no issues and then BAM—EAT ALL THE THINGS again. And I can’t figure out if it’s seasonal or it’s diet or it’s anxiety at school or it’s that his freaking shoes are tied too tight or he’s going through a growth spurt BECAUSE HE CANNOT TELL ME.
That’s the worst, guys.
He can’t tell me.
Today, I got a phone call from the school letting me know that William pulled his shorts down at recess. His teacher got to him in time so that no other children saw, and most of the kids in his class are pretty much running around doing their thing anyway, but still—he took his clothes off in public. We talk about clothing a lot because William loves to be naked, he loves to be barefoot. And that’s okay. In his bedroom and his bathroom. That’s it. In school, in the car, at the playground, at the mall, etc—you have clothing and shoes on. Period. We reinforce this all the time.
The behavior specialist seemed to think that either William was sensory-seeking (meaning he wanted to feel something against his… ya know) or something was bothering him (underwear, buttons, etc). So tonight, I’m going to have to experiment and see if I can ascertain whether one of those possibilities is correct.
So I sit here asking myself: Is it that his underwear is too loose? Does he prefer boxers or briefs? Is he simply experimenting with himself? Do his shorts feel scratchy? Does he have to urinate but would rather keep playing? Is he just being a rebel without a cause?
Like dude. One big un-answerable question.
When he cries, I don’t know why.
If he’s in pain, I don’t know it.
Imagine that—you’re tired, you’re nauseous, you have a headache, your socks are scrunched up in your shoes, you have something in your eye, you want that color instead of this color, you’re thirsty, you have to pee, you feel sad, someone stole your toy…
And you can’t tell anyone.
That is my son’s life. That is his autism.
And because he can’t tell me, it is MY life and my husband’s life and his teacher’s life and the behavior specialist’s life and every other person who meets him’s life (I’m aware that wasn’t grammatically correct but go with it) to figure it out.
Figure it out. Figure it out.
Sometimes, I can’t. I don’t know how.
But, tonight, I’m determined to figure out why my son is undressing on the damn playground. Because heaven knows I’ll never figure out why he likes to chew crayons.