I love the above cartoon. It immediately resonated with me. Wait! Logan doesn’t go to school. Ah, but he did for a while so I experienced it first hand. It doesn’t just happen with school though. Anywhere that a child has a certain expectation of behavior could trigger the delayed after effect. It happens more often with special needs children but I found it occurs in my typical child too.
Let me show you what it looks like in Logan first. He gets up and ready on Sunday morning. He goes to Sunday School then worship service. He has been expected to hold it together, sit still, and listen for over 3 hours. His stress level is at maximum capacity. He will not be able to hold it in much longer. I could do a couple of things here. I could take him home and let him relax in his room OR I could take him out to lunch and expect him to keep it together longer. Which one makes him successful in the end?
Obviously, the former scenario is the best. After church is over for the morning, we leave for home. We don’t spend twenty minutes socializing on our way out. We don’t stop to get gas. We don’t listen to music really loud. We don’t invite people over for lunch. We leave and go directly home to let him rest and relax. As he starts to unwind in alone in his room, I make lunch immediately. Hunger will only exacerbate the problem here. We eat together as a family then he is free to hibernate in his room all afternoon. I make no other demands on him at that point.
This is the ritual as it has morphed over the years. It wasn’t always this way. He and I had to learn together what worked for him and what didn’t. He had to learn to trust that I was going to be sensitive to his sensory needs and do what was necessary to bring him relief. Once we established that trust, he has been able to hold himself together for me. Part of establishing that trust was learning to see his triggers that he was nearing capacity. For Logan, this is rocking or pacing, flicking a pen back and forth in his hands in front of his face. Little things that make him stand out and look odd are usually it. Once I start to see those, we make a rather hasty exit. His complete faith and trust in me are far more important than whether we leave early and miss some things.
A typical child is close to the same thing. For Madison, it’s after the dance on Mondays. She takes intensive classes for two and a half hours. She comes out of dance exhausted, physically and emotionally. This is not the time to stop at the grocery store on the way home. This is the time to have her eat a snack on the ride home then follow the same procedure as Logan on Sunday. We make sure all her lessons are completed BEFORE dance so she can lay on her bed and relax. She only gets an hour of tv by the time we get home but it settles her. Dinner and read a louds are a great follow up. I have learned not to expect anything of her chore or lesson wise as it’s not worth the meltdown that ensues.
Putting it bluntly, you save yourself a lot of grief if you learn this quickly. I was sort of stubborn about it in the beginning. Once I saw the fruits of my labor so to speak, I adopted it quickly. Not to say that everyone understands. As with everything in autism, you develop a thick skin. Don’t think of all the things you are missing out on. The prize here is the trust of your child. Having that will pay huge dividends in the end. I promise you. You will never regret it.
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