Autism: Up, Up and Away
Ahhh, a quiet Sunday morning in beautiful Central Pennsylvania. Birds chirping, clear blue sky and a bit of chill in the air. I awake at 7am and prepare to face the day until 8am by having too many cups of coffee. As I stand out on the porch, I scan the horizon for the dreaded "monster", that one thing that drives my dog completely out of his gourd. I try to kill time before letting him out to do his business so that it is not too early should he bark and disturb the neighbors, but early enough to avoid "the monster". The "monster" usually appears without warning for you or I, but he can hear it coming miles away before the human eye can detect it.
Ok, all looks clear and I open the back door and he takes off quietly to take care of business. I call him back in saying "time for coffee". Ahhhh, a sigh of relief. All is well and we can all wake up now as most folks do on a Sunday morning.
My son with autism is still in his bed, covered up with his blanket pretending to be a ghost. As with every day, I hope for a day free of meltdowns, no upsets or triggers, a somewhat "normal" day.
Hate to disappoint you Mom, it isn't gonna happen.
WOOOOF, WOOOF, WOOOF, WOOF, WOOOF, WOOOF, WOOOF, WOOOOF, WOOOF, WOOOF
(YOU GET THE PICTURE). The dog is in full blown barking meltdown.
THE MONSTER HAS ARRIVED.
He is running around the house, sliding around on the hardwood floors, barking his hyperactive head off at 50,000 decibels. I love my dog, I will protect him from anything as I believe he would do for me. Labor Day weekend, he injured his right hind leg chasing "the monster". It has taken me 10 days of semi house confinement, massages and assisted walking to get him back in shape. I see him shrugging off any residual pain to zoom around the house, looking out the windows, determined to get to the monster.
NOOOOO, Kipper stop! I try to stop him from over exerting the leg as he runs and jumps to see out the windows. (By now the suspense must be killing you, "what is the monster?". It is the hot air balloon that flies over our house. Beautiful to behold, my dog views them as the coming of the "aliens". The owners actually landed the balloon in our back yard one year. My son and husband loved it, but it drove the dog to froth at the mouth. "What's Kipper barking at?". My son calls from the bedroom trying to be heard over the barking.
"No, Kipper"I demand again and that's where the explosion ensues.
"No no, you're screaming at me saying "no". My son now, is in full meltdown. Banging himself in the head, crying and screaming. "no, no". I try to tell him I'm not telling him "no", I'm telling the dog. Too late, we are off and running with a full blown meltdown. I do not know what the aversion to the word "no" is. For him I'm sure it is connected to some script in a video. Perhaps it was the level of my voice when yelling at the dog. Mom error. I've not respected the "autism rules of the house", certain words that he cannot tolerate. My heart sinks. Please God, let it be a short lived meltdown. He moves to the kitchen where he proceeds to vent his anger and frustration by banging on my kitchen counter. He and the dog are now in full concert with each other with regard to noise. I try the "hand squeeze", nope ain't working. He's gotta work it out for himself, he's gotta vent, and de-escalate himself.
After about what seems like an eternity, but in reality only about 20 minutes, things calm down. The dog doesn't understand why I'm giving him dirty looks for something he cannot control. He is scared of "the monster" and he doesn't understand what it is and what it could do to him. He lacks the language to explain his fear, frustration and sensory overload that "the monster" creates.
Not unlike my son's situation with autism. I understand them both.
But on mornings like this I can't help but think "Mr. Monster balloon, would you stop and take me up, up and away?"