Never Predictable
0 comment Tuesday, September 9, 2014 |
An autism tangent:
The thing which really makes dealing with a child with autism so incredibly difficult is the unpredictable factor. Life by its very nature isn't predictable - accidents happen, things change, people evolve. To the child with autism, these are mountains, even if they're molehills - a familiar person getting a haircut, a chair moved to another side of the room, are changes which can cause a meltdown. When the familiar becomes unfamiliar, it is frightening, and the results can be catastrophic.
My son was watching his favourite show and I was cooking sausages on my very dodgy grill - I have problems with a lot of the supplied appliances in this house as it seems most of the house is a DIY/bodge job. I've had to be careful with my cooking, but this morning I was distracted, and the grill managed to catch alight - and in such a way that flames were soon licking up the face of the oven toward the paste-board cabinet above.
Now, we've gone through Fireman Sam videos and safety things with sprog before, so I felt confident that I could get him out of the house. I told my son to get outside - and enforced it with "just like Fireman Sam."
But my son, with no sense of alarm, called back "No, I'm watching my movie!"
I couldn't believe it, but I kept trying to urge him outside as the house was now filling with smoke, and he was refusing. There was no time to argue, but he was arguing with me. He didn't want to leave his movie. I bodily dragged him out of his chair and away from the laptop, and he started screaming while I grabbed his wellies - he insisted I go back and pause it so he could watch it later (an uninterrupted movie, even if it's on DVD and easy to start over or rewind, is another of my son's issues). I had to propel him out of the house, still yelling about his movie and needing to watch it, even while we were both coughing. I managed to slam the oven door shut as we passed and then shut the door behind us.
Even when he was outside, he kept trying to get back in - the thought of his movie playing without him there to watch it took precedence over the fire, and he panicked, still fighting me to get indoors. I was actually trying to figure out how in the world I was going to try and deal with the fire and my son at the same time, and was on the point of yelling for my neighbours (who were probably wondering what all the fuss was) when I realised the smoke had slowed considerably and I couldn't see any fire through the window.
I managed to get my son calmed down and ventured inside (stupid I know). The fire was out - my closing the oven door had at least managed to cut the oxygen and it had burned itself out. I opened windows and aired the place out best I could, but even outside, my son was still yelling for his movie. The fire meant nothing - or at least didn't seem to mean anything. I was scared and angry that he could be so fixated on something so trivial, but after calming my own nerves, I realised that this was just Sprog's own panic-behaviour mechanism. He had fixated on the movie - as he will often fixate on something completely trivial - when the world has overloaded his mind and he can't get to grips with it. Like a needle of a record player stuck in a scratched groove (anyone remember records?), he literally cannot think himself out, but just goes over the same thing, over and over and over. I sent him to his room - and he didn't want to go, he never does - but that's one way of resetting his sensory overload by sending him somewhere quiet and familiar.
He came down after ten minutes, shaky and scared, and I tried to talk to him about the emergency - but again, it wasn't getting through. He still only cared about getting back to his movie. So; inspiration. I told him if there was ever an emergency, he was to go nextdoor - he knows W pretty well and she's familiar with his behaviour. I told him to go to her house if there was a fire or trouble. He wanted to question getting me or getting Ludo and I told him no, when I say "trouble" he needed to run right away. We will have to practice some drills with that - I will have to give her a checklist of things to do to calm him. But it will work, I hope.
I've been raising and working with my son all the years of his life, and I have rescued him out of various dangerous situations that he didn't realise were a threat. The scariest thing about autism is, just when you think you have all the bases covered, you realise that you don't. I've got autism cards for sprog to show to people in town if he gets lost, I have emergency numbers distributed round for people to call if they see my son wandering. I thought I had the fire thing covered, and emergency-999. But I couldn't possibly have forseen that if a movie was playing, my son would rather stay and risk death than leave it. Running to W's house, he might insist he has to have a certain pair of shoes before he'll go. And he will do what he always does when I tell him to do something that disrupts - argue and say no, even when there's no time. So I now have to completely reconstruct a new plan, from the ground up, taking into account that I can never know how my son will react, and yet, if I want to keep him safe, I have to construct simple, easy to enforce concepts - and then just hope to all the gods it actually works.
Life itself is pretty unpredictable, but autism...good gods, what a crapshoot.