Tag: Autism

Personal Space

*Not my actual house*C. A. Bennett

Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017
2013 AlphaSmart Neo2

Being part of a family or other group can have its difficulties, especially when the quarters are cramped. We live in a tiny house that is seven-hundred square feet of living area. We shift, turn, and shuffle our way around each other in such a way that would nearly be worthy of a finely choreographed dance on Broadway, except now and again, we trip, stumble and collide with Keystone Cop-like coordination. Sometimes it’s comical, sometimes it isn’t. Always, it’s annoying.

What happens when something in the normal routine changes? It can be as simple as a teenager who used to spend most of his time in his bedroom, but has decided to come out and join the family in the living room. Nothing wrong with that, and in fact it’s a really good thing! I’ve been trying to get him out of there for years. It does have it’s effects though.

Since the space is small and cramped already, it can seem even more so with the addition of one more body on a more regular basis. Especially when that body is six-foot-five and all skinny legs and arms. Come to think of it, that’s how he got the nickname, “Daddy Long-Legs”. It can make a parent who loves his child a bit edgy to have most of the living room floor taken up by sprawled out legs and size 14 shoes, even if the kid is quiet by nature. It’s not noise… it’s space.

So how does the dad-in-question handle it? By going to bed at 8:20 PM, which completely disrupts my routine. My response was something along the line of, “WHAT?! Wait!” because I was in the bedroom working on a paper, and making every attempt to concentrate while working in solitude. “What do you mean, you’re going to bed NOW?? UGH! Fine.” So I relocated to a different room to work uncomfortably. Solitude. Personal Space. And it’s all because of one little change. One person made one small decision about where he wanted to spend his time, and the rest of the people in the house lost their minds.

See, here’s the thing, and I want to be clear on this; We are a typical family. We interact regularly, usually eat dinner together and talk, yadda, yadda… we are always doing something together. The thing is… in this particular case, the timing is what really changed, and that’s what actually threw everything out of the delicate balance it was for years. Dad’s TV time was disrupted, and that caused a minor cascade of events.

Adaptation takes time. Becoming reacquainted with an area once something has changed is a process just like any other. For my husband, the shift of our son spending more time in the living room was the equivalent of having someone move in, because it was an extra body that wasn’t usually present at that tone of the day.

The boy had always had a habit of staying in a certian area of the house, and no amount of cajoling from his mother had ever chanced that. Autistic people are creatures of habit, and up till recently, getting the boy to spend time with family was more like pulling teeth than actual socializing. It was out of his comfort zone, and sometimes you have to let a person have their comfort.

Here’s the thing… my son is high-function, and isn’t anti-social. On the contrary, he interacts with people on a regular basis, and does very well. He has a lot of friends, and has held a job without problems typical to autistic people. He’s socially okay for the most part, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy his solitude, and his room was his preferred place for that.

So what changed? Hard to say, really. One day, he just decided to bring his computer to the living room, set up shop. It’s now become his preferred area to do whatever computer-related things he does. Why? We don’t know. My curiosity got the best of me, because I am an observer by nature, so he and I had a conversation about it. The boy was unsure as to why he suddenly liked the living room better, but says it has more space. Interesting that it took him four years to come to this decision, but personally, I’m happy about the change. I like that he’s spending more time with dear old mom & dad. I’m happy to see him out of his room and interacting more when his brothers and their girlfriends come for a visit. It’s a good thing.

The (former) Behavior Specialist in me is jumping for joy at yet another social victory in the life of her autistic son. The mom in me is just happy the boy isn’t cooped up in his room constantly. As for dad? He’ll adjust eventually… most people tend to adapt to changes pretty well in the long run, it just may take a little longer for some than other. At this rate, he will be well-rested at the very least.

One thing I think we will all agree with, is the need for a bigger house. Let’s face it… Tiny House living is tough at best, but when the dynamics suddenly change, it’s rough. Seven-hundred square feet of living space isn’t much for three adults and a dog, but we’ll manage. We always do.

Many Blessings,

Crystal

My Son Who Has Autism

​I have an 18 year old son with autism, who was mostly non-verbal until he was six, had sensory issues out the ying-yang, and could not…. would not…. go anywhere without specific items he “needed.”

Yesterday, I went to church with this boy, who willingly left his phone and headphones in the car two blocks away, and removed his favorite SF Giants hat upon entering the church, then kept it off the entire time. That never would have been the case a few ago! All of those things would have been a battle ending in frustration for all of us.

As he stood next to me singing hymns and Christmas songs along with me and the rest of the church – keeping time, carrying a tune, and missing not a single word – the enormity of his level of progress struck me so hard, I had to stop and collect myself before I could continue singing. Thank God I’d stuffed tissues in my sweater pocket before leaving, as most mothers are in the habit of doing regardless of how old our kids are.

The kid amazes me daily. This once non-verbal young man, now talks politics daily with his family, friends and teachers. He can do most everything on his own, he just forgets to do them. Is every day perfect? No. But who’s is? My menopausal self has more meltdowns than this kid! Very often, he does things for me out of the clear blue sky, just because he wants to help me out. 

One day, I’d gone grocery shopping and was in the process of putting everything away, with only the bag of sugar to transfer to its container in the cupboard, when I needed to take a bathroom break. When I came back, the sugar was in the container, in the cupboard, and the paper bag it came in was in the trash. My first reaction was to thank my husband for doing it, but he said he hadn’t. Our son said, “Oh. I did it because I wanted to help you.” You could have knocked me over with a feather! 

There have been other similar occasions where my kid just does something nice for me or his dad because he feels like it, and it always shocks me. Just last Friday, he surprised us by he using his own allowance money to buy his dad and I a snowcone after school. Nobody asked him to. In fact, we weren’t even with him when he did it on the way from the bus stop!

If you know anything about autistic people, then you know it’s uncommon for them to take another’s desires, comfort, wishes, or well-being into consideration, much less take action to propagate it on their own! 

To what do I attribute this amazing progress? 

  1. God and the power of prayer. 
  2. Parents and four older brothers who refused to treat this boy any differently than anyone else. 
  3. A lot of love and patience . 
  4. Wonderful teachers, speech therapists, and occupational therapists provided free-of-charge by the school district.
  5. The kid himself, for always trying so hard to meet all his goals. 
  6. Lots of patience and self-education on autism.
  7. Always telling him that autism is what he has, not what he is! 

              That’s very important!

If I could give other parents advice on coping with autism, it would be to follow the seven steps above, every single day no matter how hard it is. Whether or not it’s a good day is irrelevant. You don’t always have good days either, but isn’t it nice when people still treat you with love and compassion? Don’t forget that part of love is never giving up on them. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s definitely always been worth it! 

God bless!

C.A. Bennett – Writer