Time.

Time is an equal opportunity employer.  Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day.  Rich people can’t buy more hours.  Scientists can’t invent new minutes.  And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.  Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving.  No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.  ~Denis Waitely

Time is a bit of a twisted ride in my mind.  I want to see my son’s future but hold him here in the innocence of his preschool days.  I still want to rock him on my lap in our rocking chair and yet I want him to grow independent and strong.  I want to keep him safe. I want him to accept new challenges.  I’m curious about peeking around the curtain to the future while holding on to the innocence and beauty of childhood.

I need to learn to enjoy the present, to live in the moment with no hang-ups, no fears.  To play a game, eat a snack, draw a picture or just cuddle together.  Instead, I spend time doing these things, but still worrying about some aspect of my son’s future.  Wondering if I’m doing enough for him, seeking enough therapies, finding every available avenue to maximize his chances for success.

Time has become an enemy -robbing me of the present, aging me as it forces me into the future.  I feel the present slipping by like a blur.  I wonder where the time has gone.  I often feel guilty.

Special needs parenting involves things that are different.  For me, as an autism parent, the “different” is a behavior that is constant for all my son’s waking hours.  It is called stimming.  It is behavior that is repetitive and engaged in for it’s soothing nature.  When people think of autism behaviors, sometimes hand-flapping or rocking come to mind.  My son does not engage in either of these behaviors.

Instead, he is very verbal.  The problem is that he only uses his verbal ability to communicate intermittently.  Often, the verbalization is nothing more than a stream of conscious random thoughts that are constantly being recycled through his mind.  I read that a lot of children and adults engage in the verbal stim although I do not hear much about it.

Here’s a few seconds of a sample in my background as I write [all the lines are his except for the stuff in parentheses or blocked text – this is written as it occurred in order]:

“(Whispers) I’m going to put you in time out … time out…

I’m gonna put you in the closet… [uh- author’s note here – no one has put him in a closet so I don’t know where this came from]

I’m going to put you in time out…

Push 2…

(Exhales loudly).

(Whispering) “turn….and start the mo-…ter…. and start the mo-der….but he is too big.  Too big.  [Yeah. No toys involved.  He’s just laying on the bed.]

Show your mom!  Mom is here…. (loud)

(whispers) – – you’re gonna –

Fall – mommy say….

Du-uhhh.  Board…. dart-board.  Not at my face.  (whispers)
Take your baseball mit and dont’….. broken….. the doctor.”

I’ve read that some people with autism have this verbal stim because the feeling in the ears is a good one so they will do it until their throats hurt.  Others say the stim helps them process information.  Having read that, and having listened to my son over time, I believe his vocal stims are for the purpose of processing information and for the sound or the feeling he gets orally from enunciating certain words or putting emphasis on certain syllables in the words.  He does get stuck in a loop with words or phrases.  I do not know if he is processing, just emptying out the vast loop of dialogue that passes through his brain, or just likes the oral/verbal sensation of doing it.

The verbal stim makes him different.  It’s one of the most distinguishing aspects of his disability.  He becomes so preoccupied with it that it often takes 3-5 times to get his attention.  I have to “bring him back” to me.  He is almost in a dream like state.  He is not with me.  He will snap right out of it when I look straight into his eyes and say his name.  Sometimes, he will snap out of it but not know what I just asked.  Sometimes he will answer almost immediately, like he is multi-tasking.

The therapists have done a program to help decrease his self-talk (vocal stim) but I do not believe the program is active since they obtained some success on it.  It’s been left by the wayside and has come up again.  Is it wrong to suppress it?  I don’t really bother. At home, it is harmless.  He does need to control it for school.

These are times I am afraid for his future.  These are times I want to peek ahead at what is to come, hoping that it will be okay or that I can, at least, prepare for it.  I can’t.  So, I worry.

But just as quickly as it comes, it goes.  He asks a few questions or says a couple of things that are with me, relevant and indicate he is present in the now.  Then it returns.  At last, the next thing I know, he’s quiet as a mouse, having fallen asleep.  It is then that I want to freeze time, hold my son close and give him a kiss.  He is truly beautiful and he’s mine. I’m glad time is fair and forgiving because then, it allows me to stop the worry and enjoy the moment.  And I need to do that…

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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12 Responses to Time.

  1. Hi, a lovely post and a gorgeous picture of your son. I don’t try and stop my son’s stimming either, particularly at home. For my son, it serves a purpose and helps him cope and remain calm and can prevent meltdown so I go with it. Outside the home it can be more tricky because my son’s flapping can be so dramatic that he can knock into people; he has learnt to do small flaps. At school, I think he has learnt to control it there but it helps that he has access to a sensory room that calms him down.

  2. Flannery says:

    Oh, he’s so precious. Find a way to enjoy the little moments, they will be gone so fast. Try to remember that worry is not productive. I remind myself of this at least 10 times a day. It’s hard to remember, especially when you have control issues, like I do.

  3. eof737 says:

    “Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.” ~Denis Waitely
    The quote says it well. Please don’t beat yourself up for how you use your time…. You are doing the best job and there is always another day, moment, minute to do more. Everyone is entitled to some downtime… our creativity demands it. Now your son has the right approach…Take a nap! Doesn’t he look cute in that nap picture? 🙂

  4. This line rings particularly true with me: “Instead, I spend time doing these things, but still worrying about some aspect of my son’s future.”

    A lot of times, whenever I do “fun” things with Little Miss, I’m constantly thinking of her sensory issues and how I can use the activity to help her with some delay or another. “Drawing for fun” becomes “practicing how to hold a crayon” and “digging in the garden” becomes an “activity in improving tactile defensiveness.” How wonderful it would be to forget for just a minute or two and enjoy the activity for the sake of enjoying it.

  5. Lizbeth says:

    Worry about what you’re doing right now. The future will be on you soon enough. I’m mean, don’t stop planning for college and retirement and all that, but do remember the future will come all on its own—with the help of what you’re doing today.

  6. I know what you mean about the worrying. It’s not easy, but try to enjoy each day for what it is- you have a gorgeous little boy. I love the sleeping picture.

  7. Sue says:

    I wonder if the verbal stim is similar to the process babies go through as they are learning to talk, babbling to hear themselves, to practice sounds, to calm themselves, etc. Living in the present is hard, but it sounds like you are doing better than you think you are. Hold on to those precious moments.

  8. Teresa says:

    The staff at one of the places we used to visit had a consistent theme: Every minute your brain injured child is not better is a minute lost. Talk about rough. We parents of special needs children spend so much time working to help our children be normal. But you’re right. We do need to take a few minutes each day to appreciate where our child is right here and right now. It’s a challenge. But just like with our “normal” children, they do grow up and move beyond these levels.

  9. Rachel says:

    I don’t have this particular stim, and I don’t recall having it as a child, but I do play with words a lot in my mind. I wonder whether any verbal stimming was trained out of me at a young age. It’s entirely possible, since my parents weren’t especially tolerant folks. So the verbal stims might have gone inward and become a part of my internal processing.

    I think in word pictures, and I wonder whether your son is similarly inclined. He seems to take delight in the words themselves. I would encourage this while helping him find other stims to replace the verbal ones when he could come across as being rude or disruptive. I wouldn’t try to get him to give this up without replacing it. Stimming is really necessary for someone with a sensitive neurology.

    His verbal stims sound almost like music and that I can relate to. I always have music going in my mind and I often end up rocking to it! I also hum a lot. Partly, it’s a way to block input by controlling output and partly, I just love art for art’s sake. It sounds like something similar might be going on for your little guy. There might be something about the pure aesthetics of words that appeals to him.

  10. Big Daddy says:

    Love the opening quote!

  11. Lynn says:

    Audrey does this too. Does he by any chance cover his mouth when he whispers to himself? Audrey does that. I think it’s mostly her processing, but I like your analogy to emptying out the circuitry. They certainly have a helluva lot rattling around their brains!

  12. Brian says:

    AJ does the same thing! Wow, Karen V. and Lynn, we are like a menage du toi (spelling? appropriate?) of kids with similar stuff. AJ says “school bus. wow” and does a lot of singing. I hope it’s processing, but this post makes me think about it.

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