Taking Flight

We have good days. We have bad days. And sometimes we just have blah days. The weekend was great. Saturday we went swimming with family – aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents…very intimate and nice. Javan did so well. The last four or five times we had gone swimming before that, he would throw up every single time. All it takes is a little drop of pool water to get in his mouth and he freaks out so much he gags and spews. One time he even did it in the pool. That cleared the place out pretty quick. This time though, before he ever even dipped in one tiny toe, I had a serious talk with him about what to do if water gets in his mouth. It went something like this: “If you get water in your mouth, you are not going to freak out. You are going to stay calm, take deep breaths, and swim straight to your drink. You will breathe and drink, not gag.” And that’s exactly what he did.

His great grandmother even called me today and told me how well she feels like he’s doing on these new meds. He’s like a new kid. She said, “Boy, when you talked to him, he really listened. He really understood what you were saying and he did it!” In other words, at least over half the time now, he’s breaking out of his own little world. He’s letting me in. And he is a tricky little booger. He loves to splash cousins in the pool. He thinks it is absolutely hilarious. But I reminded him that the rule was if you splash others, they get to splash you back. He is so stinkin’ smart…to get around this rule, he told his cousins, “Well, I don’t mind being splashed, just as long as you don’t splash me on the skin.” He’s pretty good, ain’t he?

And yesterday, I was so very proud of him. He made it through one of the most sensory overloaded days I’ve asked him to endure in a looooong time. First, we took him to church. He hasn’t been in about three months due to his aggression. I would get called to his room every single time because he hit a kid or threw a chair at the teacher or whatever. Embarrassing and frustrating, to say the least. Then there was the day when the Sunday school director asked me to please be in his room with him to control his behavior. And while I was in there, I could count as one of the leaders and take care of the other kids too. That ain’t gonna work. So, we decided he wasn’t getting real church anyways since he was usually under the table or in trouble, and we’d try again when his moods were more regulated.

Our church is doing a summer thing where we get together at 10 and hang out for an hour, then have a one hour service. So, we took him to the last 30 minutes of the just visiting part. We ate breakfast (his favorite part of church, free donuts!) and played in the kids area for a while. Then he was kinda done, but we made him stay for a while. He was restless, but he did visit with people some. One lady even bent down on his level to visit with him. He thought this an appropriate time to describe to her the sounds our Lab makes when he is going to throw up. Well, at least he talked to her! And she rolled with the punches like the best of ’em.

He made it through visiting time with no major episodes. Then the service started. We could hear the music playing, but we stayed out in the lobby. Our church music is accompanied by guitars and drums and is usually too loud for him by far, even if we sit in the back. After a minute though, I noticed him bouncing along to the beat. It took some convincing, but I talked him into opening the door and peeking in to see the people on the stage. He apparently decided it wasn’t too loud or scary after all, because he marched us right down to the front row and plopped down. He stood and sat and stood and sat and stared and stared and stared at the female singer on stage. She was his favorite, he later told me. Then, the talking started and he just stood up and pointed to the aisle. It was time to go. We were okay with that. The test run had gone well. He had reluctantly made it through 30 minutes in the lobby and play area, and had enjoyed worship. I did notice that the overstimulation had taken its toll when he opened the door to the lobby and ran straight into an art easel. He got pretty tangled up in that thing, but he wasn’t hurt, just confused. His body was just ready to fly right outta there. Kids on the autism spectrum have a scientifically proven stronger fight or flight response than do neurotypical children. And sensory overload usually triggers it. I was so proud of my boy for containing his urge to fight, and for waiting for an appropriate time to take flight.

But the sensory stimulation of the day had just begun! Next up: a lengthy shopping trip at Wal-Mart. Bright, fluorescent lights, crowded aisles filled with too many things to look at, noisy carts and people….and he passed with flying colors. He did so perfectly! It might have helped that, due to Daddy’s broken foot, he was able to be distracted by driving the handicap buggy. We bought him a special treat at the checkout: a Captain America toy camera. That kid loves cameras. And he was so thrilled to know that he had really earned it!

You would think that I wouldn’t push him any farther. You’d be wrong. Next up: a trip to the dollar theater to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins with and Aunt and a few cousins. It usually isn’t crowded there at all. Like maybe 10-20 people per movie. Not today! It was a FULL HOUSE. I have been frequenting this theater for years, and I honestly cannot remember it ever being so crowded. He sat/bounced/stood/wiggled in semi-close proximity to his seat for a good 45 minutes. Then he decided it was time to leave. He does this on so many occasions that we don’t take him to full price movies anymore. Ever. I knew there was no arguing with him. I gave a frustrated shrug to Aunt Sue and waved a silent goodbye to the cousins. I had really been enjoying the movie and was so disappointed to leave. But when we got to the back of the theater, he sat down in the aisle. He wanted to keep watching the movie. He just didn’t want to be right in there with everybody else. So, I sat down in the aisle with him, scooted us to the wall, and we watched the rest of the movie right there. He was so much more comfortable there. And after the movie was over, he could hardly wait to surprise the rest of the family with the news that he had made it through the whole movie~he was so very proud of himself!

You’re thinking, surely, she wouldn’t have added any more to the list of overwhelming sensory stimulation for the day, right? Right? Ok, well, I didn’t, I was just pulling your leg. We went home after that and had a nice, relaxing evening. I think I may have paid for yesterday’s sensory over stimulation today though. I’m not really sure. We just had a kind of rough day with so much more aggression (minor) and disobedience than I’ve seen in a while. Could it be that even though he did so great yesterday, his nerves became raw or something and that’s what made today different? It’s something I will think about more closely the next few times we have a lot of sensory overload in one day and see if a pattern emerges. Perhaps his birthday party Saturday will shed some light.

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