It is thundering again.
Wolfie is sitting on the couch watching an episode of Scooby with his ears covered and with each thunder yelling “Mama!” It’s like a reflex for him. Kids with Asperger’s develop patterns. Some are OCD about their things and that is where the pattern lies. Some want the schedule or routine the same. And in cases like Wolfie the pattern starts with any situation that leaves an imprint on him. Good or bad, that pattern that has just been imprinted is gonna be around for awhile.
It took me a long time to figure this out about him. When he was in preschool he had a rough afternoon getting ready one day. I think he wasn’t feeling well. Something set him in motion for a bad day. I mean really bad. They had to clear the room because he was having a meltdown and no one could figure out what set him off. I’m still not sure.
What happened though, is that he started refusing to go to school. It was one of the hardest times in my life because I didn’t get it. I had no idea why he was acting this way. I was desperate to change it, but I didn’t know how.
We had a meeting with his preschool teacher and the inclusion facilitator. Two of the most wonderful women on the planet. These are women who were born to do the jobs that they do. They are gentle, kind, full of information and most importantly, I think, eager to learn from the children that they work with and their parents. Great listeners.
Anyway, after I talked about how desperate I felt and described Wolfie’s behavior, Alison, the inclusion facilitator said to me “Sounds like he’s developed a pattern. We have to help him make a new one.”
Those words were like gold to me. It was so empowering to think that I could help him create a new pattern. The things that happened next were so simple and so effective. I wrote a social story for him about what we do to get ready for school and how we feel when we do it. We read it every day and every night. Within a few days, he was getting in the car without freaking out and he felt safe again. It was incredible to watch and to be a part of.
Since then, we have written many other social stories. Some we even wrote together and I honestly think having them around helped me as much as it helped him. It was like getting the instructions to perform a dance. We knew some of the moves naturally, but we needed help with some others.
It is no coincidence that Wolfie is intrigued by and also afraid of storms. They lack predictability and that makes him uncomfortable, but I think he identifies with that. I think it is a great analogy for his behavior.
Just like the clocks he became fascinated with as a little guy, we will learn as much as we can about storms. We will learn about clouds and what they tell us with how they look and which direction they come from. We will learn about thunder and lightening. And we will eventually watch a funnel cloud form on video. This is something we can’t even discuss right now. But we will get there and when we do we will have what we need to feel safe.
There is nothing more powerful than knowledge.