There’s a popular system for regulating elementary school behavior. Good behaviors merit a designation of green. With lots of green days, a kid can earn a prize. A few bad incidents might merit a yellow or a blue. The yellow means you had an outburst, but managed to pull it together. Blue means you couldn’t pull it together right away, but could eventually. Like soccer, red means you exhibited really bad, and basically unrepentant behavior. At school, Martin always gets either green or red. There is no middle ground.
It’s the same at home. The past two weeks have been either heaven or hell. At times, Martin has been inquisitive, warm, and hilarious. He’s learned all the first ladies. He’s learning the vice presidents. He plays in a tent we set up in the backyard. Today, he invited a friend to go to the playground with him and, without prompting, thanked the friend when we dropped him off afterward. There are moments when you look at him and forget that he has an autism diagnosis. There seems to be nothing in between him and the rest of the world.
But then it comes back. Usually we have no idea why. But something will set Martin off. And then there is scratching and hitting, yelling and kicking. He’s so frustrated about something, but he can’t say exactly what. And even when he can express his desire, he can’t handle it if the request is denied. For instance, he demands that I carry him. I simply cannot do it anymore. He’s just too big. When I tell him I can’t, you’d think I just denied him candy for the rest of his life, or oxygen. The response is so instant and so dramatic. And I can’t do anything. I certainly can’t give him what he wants. And I can’t seem to find a way to convince him that life might be OK if I don’t carry him.
So even though it’s only September, life is red and green for us.
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