I have been frank, honest, and have shared some of the most private and special moments in our lives. In a way, the writing has been therapeutic for me as well. It has helped me cope with the events, and hopefully, I can show this to my sons as they get into adulthood, as they understand what their childhoods were really like from my perspective.
Now, we have made it through October, 2011. More holidays are upon us in the coming months, and things are still tough. Each holiday presents its own challenges. At Easter, we watched our son not grasp the concept of egg hunting while kids younger than him were excited to go hunting. Halloween brought all sorts of special challenges from addressing sensory issues when it came to picking out a costume, to introducing him to total strangers, to the social awkwardness that comes with interacting with people, and the lack of fear that this child exhibits when it comes to running out into roads, or walking into peoples homes. With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, my husband and I knew we had to do something different. We could just shut ourselves in and avoid the holidays all together, but would family understand? The answer to that is no. Many people that read this and don't have a kid on the spectrum might feel the same way, but THIS is where knowing your child and his or her limitations comes into play. It isn't like I want to be a hermit. From the time I was little bitty, I was always the "social butterfly" type. I haven't changed... my circumstances HAVE.
They didn't see what the big deal was and we were told numerous times that the only way he was going to "get better" was if we exposed him to this activity... SURE.. At this rate, we can have a nice thanksgiving meal when he is 25. It only happens once a year. So, we did some research, and we worked on "social stories" to help show him what was expected, what to expect, and who he would see there. We broke out pictures and went though them. I tried to get him to try "thanksgiving" foods..... not gonna happen. Nothing is going to simulate the crowd, the amount of plates and forks clanging, the smells, sights, sounds. there is no way to actually prepare him for this type of situation. All I can do is try though. Cameron did really pretty well considering the number of people at my parents house. He chased my parents schnauzer, Jill. He got to go outside and feed the fish in their coy pond. He likes the sound of the waterfall, I assume. He didn't really eat, except 2 bites of a roll and didn't care to play with his cousins. when he had enough, he had enough, and he let us know that he was overstimulated.
The next holiday, Christmas, would be a bit of a repeat... except, he was done when his hand got slammed in the door by a cousin. He was doing wonderfully before then, but then after that, it was nothing but a huge bawling event. He could care less about presents. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we went on the Polar Express. It is a great story read on an actual train while you go on a ride in your pajamas, get served hot cocoa, and actors play the parts in the book. We tried preparing Cameron for the train ride ahead of time, and actually, I was excited. I don't think I has EVER been on a train ride before! Well, as Santa came to greet all of the boys and girls on the train and hand them a special bell, My emotions went into overdrive. Cameron could care less about what was going on. He was just fine, enjoying himself to some cheerios and looking out the window seat.
Guess what Santa brought him? A red wagon, a "laptop" computer game, an abacus, and a set of microfiber "cars" sheets for his "big boy bed". He still didn't care to open his gifts, but when he was shown every gift, THIS was his reaction.
What a HAPPY boy! It was about that time when I finally put to rest the issues I had been dealing with, and I stepped back to look at MY sadness as just that.... it was MINE. He was happy. He loved the train ride for what it was worth, and I once again, put expectations on a child that is just a little bit different. I owed it to him to get over this sadness. I needed a hard slap in the face and a a skinny dip in the arctic to see what I had been missing for a good 6 months of my life. I was missing out on the sheer joy that my son exudes. My gosh, I how could I miss out on all of that time? Well, Guess what? Time to pick myself up by my bootstraps and get on with living... to get down in the floor and play with the kid... however HE wants to play and be once again grateful that he was put in our lives. I can honestly say that by the time the new year came around up until this point... I have not shed a single tear of sorrow for that boy. He was my "cure", and it kind of funny that someone so young had to teach this old gal a thing or two about living life.