Happy Halloween!!! Or should I say: Happy Halloween??! A day filled with trepidation for many-an-autism parent. Why? Just do the math! Costumes + candy + games + parties = meltdowns!!! Right? WRONG. Seriously.
Not to say she wasn’t teetering on the edge a time or two… or ten. Not claiming that!
I am claiming the brilliant execution of some long-lived, well-worn coping strategies. The girl knows what works! Years of practice, after all. Every. Single. Day. Just takes it up a huge notch on days like today. Being the resident expert, Kirsten takes the lead.
Her job? She is to decrease her stress level by:
1. Controlling her environment to the best of her ability.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
3. Discuss her favorite obsession.
If done well, she will maintain her equilibrium. If not… meltdown. Sound like anybody YOU know??! Yeah… that’s what I thought…
As talented as she is at her job, I’m not off the hook. There’s a vital supportive role to be filled. What’s my job?
- Allow a little more tasking out. She needs to control something – sign me up!
- Work with the repeating. Channel it – yes! Stop it – never.
- Maintain a neutral tone. Do not add to the excitement.
- Sprinkle the conversation with the real issue. Who doesn’t want to feel understood?
- Praise all efforts to keep calm. Considering the physiology, a seriously impressive feat!
- The MOST important thing to remember. This is not the time to challenge her on anything. If she wants to buy 10 sheet sets this Saturday, the answer is YES! She is baiting me. Don’t bite!
A little morning synopsis…
Up at 6:30, she spots me ironing her costume and starts in. “What time’s make the bed? What time make snack? What time fix your costume? The rapid succession is my clue – tread lightly! Me: “Good morning Kirsten! Snack is next.”
K: “What time make snack?” Me: “After I iron this. First iron, then snack.”
K: “What time make snack?” Me: “After I iron this.” K: “What time fix bedding?” Me: “Do you want me to make snack or fix bedding next?”
K (ignoring my question): “What time make snack? What time fix bedding?” Me: “Are you excited about today?!!” K: “Yes. What time make snack? What time fix bedding?”
Me: “I’ll make the snack after I iron this. YOU could fix the bedding!” K: “Just Mom do it! What time make snack?” Me: “Next. Good job staying calm!!”
…ad nauseam until I finally finished her to-do list. Two very long minutes. My new record – rapid repeating is a great motivator! Costume ready, backpack ready, pillows in place. Time to relax, right?
WRONG. Oh, so very wrong.
Of course, you knew that! It isn’t about the snack or the bedding or the costume. It’s about the excitement! And did that go away??! No, my friend, it did not. What’s a girl to do?
Since there is no current pressing matter, it’s time to move on to her favorite obsession. Sheets! She buys a new set every 6 months and discusses them the rest of the time. So. Much. Fun. Goes like this…
K: “No it’s not triangle sheets in January. Make it in November. Buy triangle sheets in December. Or green leaves. No it’s not green leaves. Just triangle sheets.” Me: “You want triangle sheets in December?”
K: “Yes. Make triangle sheets. Gotta find it. It’s not green leaves. Just triangle sheets. Uh-oh. I can’t find it.” Me: “Well, we have to look!”
K: “Have to look for the white triangle sheets. They not make it. Make it in November. Have to look. No, not in January. Look on Saturday.” Me: “Mmmhmm… are you excited about the party?”
K: “Yes. Buy new sheets. No it’s not plain white…”
And so it continued throughout the morning. Add in some map coloring (No, the repeating did NOT stop! Little multitasker…), some picture taking, and a touch of “What time’s LeeAnn” and you’ve got the whole picture.
I think we’ve got this stuff down!
*Quick! Find me some wood to knock on!!!*