So, I’m sitting in my first Weight Watchers meeting of 2012. I got there on time. I sat the kid down in the back of the very, crowded room with his iPad and went to get weighed. (By the way, I’m almost at my goal and have officially lost 34 pounds – yes I was that fat). I finally sit down too and I know he’s giggly and chatty but I’m not budging. I’m going to stick it out if it kills me, because it’s for my health (pun intended).
I think, though, that he was spoiled last week with his dad taking him elsewhere while I went to the meeting. This Saturday he was determined to evict me from my perch. He was talking loudly to himself through giggles and laughter. His body was like a limp noodle, laying on the chair. Then, he got up and started heading toward the front of the group, like he was going to take over the meeting! Caught him. And, of course, when I tell him to be quiet, he becomes defiant and louder. I actually, as a reflex, and by instinct, put my hand over his mouth after he yelled out during the meeting.
I’m partially to blame for setting myself up for failure. I let him play with an app called Type N Talk. I don’t know if you are familiar with this app but it takes whatever you type in and generates a Steven Hawking-ish voice translation that “speaks” what you’ve typed with the push of a button.
The little guy thinks it is hysterical to type wildly and randomly, then listen to the voice read back all the letters. Between laughs, he will ask me, with slurred speech, from laughing, “What is he saying?” He know exactly what he’s saying but I’m quite sure he wants to test whether it is as funny if Mommy recites it.
The second thing I’ve done, in the past, is to be weak. When he would act up in a large group, I’d pull him outside. My standard reaction is to remove him from the group. Or I leave. I refused to do it on Saturday. I sat through his behaviors, shushing him and taking away his iPad. At first, I thought this might escalate his behavior, and for a few seconds he was a little louder. Then, he went “inside himself” and talked in a low voice. He was “somewhere else.” Eventually, he simply sat – quietly.
Of course, on the way to quieting down, I got “the look” from strangers. If you need an explanation of what I’m talking about, I suggest you read this great post, written by Brian and Christy at Both Sides of the Coin, or this explanatory post from Flappiness Is.
A couple, probably in their 60s, very intentionally, kept turning around and looking directly at my son and then turning back toward the front. They did not make eye contact with me. There were also adults talking just as loud in the back. This couple gave them the same look. So, I wasn’t singled out, at least.
I was glad that I stayed. I just got lucky that the little guy calmed down and sat quietly. There was no magic in my method. It just happened to work out for me.
His behavior was nothing less than “goofy”. Laughing uncontrollably, being loud and defiant. Was it intentional? Manipulative? Was it part of autism? Yes, I think, all of the above. Socially, it was inappropriate. He knew it. But did he recognize that others would pay attention and be unhappy? Doubt it. Would he care if he knew? Maybe, but I don’t know. I know he didn’t want to be there – and therein lies the manipulation.
I see more typical, five year old, daily. That does not mean the autism is gone. It isn’t. It never will be. For the rest of Saturday, I got a nonstop talker, obsessed with reciting the names of planets, in order. He, repeatedly, asked me if Mr. Moon loves “mommy”. Asked me if Triton is Neptune’s moon, if Charon is Pluto’s moon, if Dione is Saturn’s moon. He knows the answers. He recites them 100 times a day. I heard about the phases of the Moon all day and all night til he was asleep.
We’ve had our share of progress. It comes almost daily. I want to say there are more good days than bad days. But there really aren’t. There are good “moments” and good “hours” but there are never good or bad “days”. There are just days. Sometimes, the “moments” of bad outnumber the “moments” of good. Sometimes, it’s the other way around.
Autism leads our days, and sometimes, when we’re lucky, it takes a back seat. In it’s place, come other behaviors. Before I can say a behavior is autism-related now, I have to examine now whether I’m being played. I have to tread carefully. I don’t want to react to something I think he can control when he can’t. The balance is tricky, and I am wrong on a daily basis, to my chagrin.
Underneath it all, autism will always be part of us. How much it will lead our dances is the unknown at our house. The numbers of ups versus downs are always changing. I try hard to manipulate them here, so we can live in the “good” more than the “bad”. But sometimes, I just have to surrender.
After all, if I didn’t, I’d only be kidding myself. I don’t have control.
I have to find the way to peaceful coexistence.