With and Without You

Yesterday my latest copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders arrived in the post, just in time to give to his new teacher at the end of Transition Day. I wanted to write a note to go with it in anticipation of not getting chance to talk to the teachers (good plan, I didn’t get chance, and as he currently teaches at another school I wont see him now until September). So I re read the book, just to make sure it could be read in an hour as  I wanted to say (it took me about 40 minutes, but I’m a fast reader). I feel a bit cheeky, asking him to read something, I have some idea how much work outside the classroom teachers do (a lot), how little of the school holidays they actually have as ti me off, plus he’s been teaching 7 years already I didn’t want to insult him. So, I hope my note adequately acknowledged these things and persuasively explained why it was important he read this book.

Then there was my re reading the book. Which on the one hand, made me doubt he is on the spectrum (as it’s clear there are are people on the spectrum with more problems with him). On the other hand, it made me ashamed, as it talked about anxiety and how people can’t learn when their stressed. You see I spent a lot of time shouting at him the previous evening as he was driving me around the twist (the irony of only feeling able to express my frustration with ASC in metaphors is not lost on me). I went to bed the night before, early, with a headache, in tears. And indeed I’d got cross with him that very morning too. So re reading the book reminded me how rubbish/wrong/coutnerproductive/cruel my behaviour had been.

The probable reason his behaviour had been trying the night before is that yesterday was both Transition Day, when he spent the day with the teacher he will have in September, in the new classroom, and also the day they went the whole year went on an overnight school trip to a marine aquarium to “sleep with the sharks”. Stellar timing school (not).

So, yesterday evening, after the hectic rush of getting him and a classmate (who lives far away) and classmates mother and brother back to ours, the boys changed, fed an evening meal and back to school in an hour and twenty minutes, we then had an evening, a night, a morning of just one child.

I knew it would be different, but how much quieter, easier, calmer it is just blew me away. Even once she was asleep and he would’ve been asleep had he been here, the atmosphere in the house was completely different from normal.

So now, I am back to thinking, he is not average, there is “something” different about him (and ASC seems to be the best fit). And I am not just a rubbish parent, parenting him is so full on, noisy, relentless.

And the bit of the book where Paul Taylor says not to try and do anything with them when they’re stressed, to leave them be. I really understand why he wrote that, it makes so much sense. But the problem is not me leaving him be, it’s him leaving me be. He follows me around shouting at me. I want him to find a quiet space and leave him to calm down, but he doesn’t want to do that, his constant need for attention means that he would rather shout at me. And of course, this happens when I am trying to cook for everyone. In fact it all started as he was in ultra noisy mode and I wasn’t coping with it. Whatever I did, whatever I said, however gentle, persuading, reasonable I was, whatever tactic I tried, all I could hear was him shouting and banging and it took up all the space in my head. And when I’d finally had enough and asked him to go upstairs and read, he rolled on the floor and shouted at me instead. And when I insisted he stamped his way all up the stairs.

Sometimes I need time to calm down. Sometimes I need leaving alone. And that doesn’t seem to happen.

Right now, is the calm before the storm. In half an hour I have to go and get him, and deal with the fallout. He will have had a great time, and not enough sleep and will be wound up.

Was the stress worth the experience for him, almost certainly.  Was the stress worth the calm for me? I’m not so sure right now. I do know that I haven’t missed him, which is not to say I don’t care, this was a planned trip and he’s gone less than 24 hours, but I have not missed him, in fact I have been guiltily day dreaming about having him sleepover with someone else once a week just to give the rest of us a break. Very guiltily day dreaming.


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