Autism sometimes takes the helm. The Captain can run around screaming “Mutiny!” but the result is the same. Sometimes, though, I don’t remember that I’m not steering this ship. I have the course laid out, the right tools to navigate, but stormy waters….well, they just happen.
There are many moments, some that stretch themselves into days, that I forget Ollie has autism. I think that is a testament to the effectiveness of early intervention, and people who are truly invested in his life. We have wound ourselves around this world that he lives in so much, we’ve become so accustomed to Ollie being Ollie, that we don’t notice. This is our normal.
But then Saturday at 3:22 happened.
At 3:21, everything was going along swimmingly, I was taking my grandson back to my daughter and her husband after a nice, long, visit. I should have seen the signs, but again, the whole “swimmingly” thing. 🙂
“When are we going to get there, hey Oma!!” my grandson shouted from the back seat.
“MOM!! WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO ANSWER HIM!!!???” the sound of my son snapped me into auditory attention.
Ollie was at his limit. Done. Done. Done. I hadn’t planned well for this, thinking that having his nephew over would fill his little heart with joy. Anxiety was the rule of the day, though, in Ollie’s world.
“Soon, soon, ” I reply, looking into the rear view mirror long enough to catch my grandson’s eye and make a funny face at him. He laughed, but Ollie was still on the question he had just asked. “MOM! Why didn’t you answer him?!!!” My hands were sore by that time, from gripping the steering wheel. One of my biggest fears, as an autismom, is having my son in full meltdown mode while I am driving.
So I told a joke.
A stupid, silly, joke.
And all was well.
I have become a master of diversion in these years spent as an autismom. Anything to get Ollie off the track of a meltdown. That is not a stop I wanted this train to take. In a fraction of a second, I had to reach deep into my old bag of tricks. What worked before? What can I say quickly?
“Jean-Paul,” I shouted, so that he would look at me… “YOU are MY HEEEEROOOOOE!!!!” I made a funny, opened mouth smile, and it worked. This particular tactic is something that I have used since Ollie was six. I have NO idea where it came from, but when things get really tense, making that exaggerated facial expression helps. It seems to be the penny that got the stylus over the scratch in the meltdown record.
I get angry when I’m tired, stressed when I am overwhelmed, and panic when something unexpected comes up.
And I am nuerotypical.
I cannot imagine the strength, courage, and patience it takes for a kiddo like Ollie to put up with us all. We make NO sense! 🙂 Plans change, construction happens, trains block the highway, and mom makes wrong turns, sometimes. I like to kick back and enjoy the ride, while Ollie tries his hardest to understand that a plan is a general guideline for me, not a carved in stone dictate. He is remarkable. He has made so much progress. I need to remember however, that everyone has bad days. Days when the side of the bed they wake up on, is the wrong one.
Ollie has autism. It is up to me to remember that. It is up to me to respond to him, accordingly, and it is my job to make sure that he has the tools to get along in this life. That means, through the help of an army of therapists, teachers, mentors, family and friends, I can do my job…and Ollie, well he can just be Ollie! 🙂 No one can do this alone, we all need our support system. I’ll write more on a later date about where you might look, if you are feeling alone and overwhelmed sometimes. We can do this, together. Every one of you who have commented and written, just help me realize I am not alone. Thank you for that… “YOU are MY HEEEEROOOOOES!” 😉