Why Are We So Adultish?

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Last Sunday was potentially the best day ever on record.

I mean, if we ignore the fact that he told me to ‘go away’ when he first saw me. After that he was all hugs and kisses.

On the way to the swimming pool we played a real fun game: I pretend to put my hand in a holly bush and hurt myself and he grabs my hand and kisses it better. He thinks it is hilarious when I hurt myself. I try not to be offended.  And then we bowled into the swimming pool and pranced around and played chase and I pretended to be a shark and Sonny kept dunking my head under the water which was fun and also kind of dangerous because he had no concept of how long I could hold me breath for. I nearly drowned.

But it was worth it for the LOLs. We had all the LOLs.

When we were getting changed in the cubicles I could hear someone telling off a child for being silly, and they said, “Stop being so childish!” Meanwhile, in a changing room a few doors down, myself and Sonny were, instead of getting changed, emptied out a whole bottle of talcum powder with great force onto our heads and bodies. It got me thinking, why are we so quick to tell a child to stop being a child, yet we rarely tell another adult to stop being so adulty? As a society we respect adulthood far more than childhood.

  What I have grown to realise, is that adults are just children in disguise.

I feel conned by adulthood. Genuinely I feel like it is a hoax. When I was younger I used to think, “wow I can’t wait to be an adult! Look at them all, knowing about everything and being so wise and clever!”  And then you grow up and suddenly you are expected to be an adult. And you wish you were a kid again, putting mud in your hair or pretending to be a dog, instead of trying to get your head around interest rates and how best to remove a wine stain from the carpet.

So when did we all stop playing? And why? It is so fun. And so important, and the most efficient way to learn. And generally makes all involved very happy.

Sonny taught me that. He is really quite a good teacher, though I doubt he knows it.

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When I feel like a failure

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Sonny sometimes has meltdowns when we are out and about on our adventures. He had one a few weeks ago on Hampstead Heath when I told him he wasn’t allowed to get naked. He had one when we went to the mini village with my mum because it was too busy and crowded. He sometimes has one for what seems to be no reason at all.

I don’t like the word meltdown because it sounds like he is made of wax. But I can’t think of a better word to use so it will have to do. For Son, a meltdown refers to a combination of the following behaviours: crying uncontrollably, falling to the ground, kicking off his shoes (he hasn’t hit anyone with them yet but I feel it is only imminent), biting, head butting, hitting, running away etc.

The other day Sonny had one of the biggest meltdowns I have ever seen. Thankfully we were at his house when it happened (it started just when we were walking back to his house and continued for what felt like 3 hours but was probs only about 15 mins). His parents came back home and his Dad heroically stepped in and calmed him down. His meltdown then triggered my own kind of meltdown (I didn’t throw myself on the floor screaming but I did have a bit of a cry).

It has been four years since I have known Sonny, and yet it is still hard for me not to take it personally. I felt sad because I thought he hated me and that he never wanted to see me again. And in that moment I felt angry at the fact he has autism and was experiencing so much pain (autism acceptance is sometimes harder in those situations!). It felt so unjust that he has to go through that, and I couldn’t do anything to take it away. The helplessness of it is unbearable. Failure felt pants. But then I pulled myself together because this whole thing is way bigger than me, and how I feel.

I have always wanted Sonny to live a big life, or at least provide him with the opportunity to. But what comes with that is a hell of a lot of risk. He might like where we go or he might not. His eyes might light up when he sees a new animal, he might say a new word or try and make friends with another child, and he might hurl himself on the floor in tears and refuse to get up. Unpredictability is kind of his thing. Perseverance is kind of mine.

If I want him to experience all the good times, of course there are going to be some bad. Bite marks and hair loss come with the territory. If I want him to live a big life and try new things and go on adventures then by definition there is risk. To feel the peaks you got to feel the troughs. In my opinion it is worth it.

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Flap Away My Son!

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‘Stimming’ is a term used to describe self-stimulatory behaviours.

Basically it is a repetitive behaviour that feels good.

Children with autism stim in a variety of different ways. It may be rocking, spinning, shaking their head, flapping their hands, repeating a sound or word etc.

For Sonny, he flaps his hands on his head, his leg, my head, my leg, a random chair, a pineapple, anything that is in reach. He loves it. Can’t get enough of it. Click here to see it (quite bad quality though!)

He sometimes stims when he really likes something (watching something on his iPad) but mostly when he is distressed (when I ask him to put his shoes on his own). So I kind of see it as him expressing emotions he can’t articulate through words- loads of happiness and excitement or loads of frustration and anger. It helps him when he is trying to manage his feelings of anxiety, fear or when there is too much sensory input (too hot, too light etc).

Some people think that stimming should be eliminated or modified. I am not those people. I believe that if it doesn’t hurt anyone else or himself he should flap, flap and keep on flapping. If it makes him feel good then I say crack on. Why should he adapt and change who he is just because it might seem a bit odd or different? When we are mincing around London and he flaps he does gets some funny looks (which we both completely ignore) but I never tell him to stop. I did once try and do it with him when he was half way through an intense flapping session just to see what he did. He stopped and looked at me quite disapprovingly, walked away from the crazy lady who looks after him and continued.

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We all have different ways of calming ourselves down to some degree, sometimes without realising we are doing it. People who bite their nails, pace up and down, shake their leg, tap a pencil etc, they are all repetitive behaviours that in some way are calming or soothing. Most of us stim, autistic or not, it is just that some are more accepted by society I guess.

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My stim? I play with my hair all the time. Well, not when I play ping pong. But a lot of the time.

Cheap Fun Is Good Fun

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Sonny is a man of simple pleasures.

I have noticed he finds happiness in the smallest or strangest of things.

Recently, he has been asking to go into supermarkets. (Click here to see) When we go in he makes a bee line for the DVD section. We can spend a good 20 minutes in there. He walks up and down the aisles reallllyyyy slowly. Maybe one will take his fancy. He will pick it up, look at it for about a minute and then put it on the floor. And carry on in the same manner. Eventually he chooses something fairly inappropriate (he loves a film rated 15 apparently) and gives it to me. I usually have to employ some distraction tactics to move him on without getting upset he hasn’t managed to take Prometheus home. We then mince on over to the fruit and veg section, where we talk about the colour of grapes, bananas, apples etc.

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Last Sunday we ended up spending about half an hour sitting in a park getting very involved with a pack of balloons (click here) I had in my bag, along with various toys from Macdonald’s happy meals, bubble wrap, hand sanitizer, random bits of fluff, you know, the usual stuff a girl in her mid twenties carries with her. He said all the colours (confused between pink and red, but whatevs) and then tried to blow up all 4 balloons at the same time.

Every time I see Sonny I have some activity or outing planned, like a city farm/soft play etc, but sometimes he likes staring at DVDs. Sometimes he likes watching the taps run in the toilets. Sometimes he likes lying on the floor with his head in his hands.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…

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It took about a year and half to get Sonny to say, ‘I want help please,’ using hand signs and words. He has become good at it now, but often uses it as a get clause when he can’t be bothered. Clever.

So you can imagine my surprise in a soft play centre the other day, when I was at the top of the slide and Sonny was trying really hard to climb up it (he had socks on). He tried and tried for about 10 minutes. He wasn’t really getting angry when he failed, just kept trying different ways until he eventually made it to the top. I felt a little bit mean videoing him from the top and not helping him out (Here’s the vid.)

Anything he does independently is a massive deal (he opened a crisp packet on his own the other day and I nearly passed out with excitement.) We have devised a sort of victory dance (it involves a sequence of very enthusiastic high fives, jumping, and shrill screaming) to celebrate anything he does on his own, which he seems to like!

I don’t want him to grow up thinking he can’t do something, just because he didn’t try, or because someone else did it for him.

I learnt how to ride a bike at the ripe old age of 19. I made a vague attempt when I was younger but couldn’t commit to the process. I gave up fairly quickly (never have been good with failure) and ever since just accepted the fact that I simply couldn’t do it. The only reason I can ride a bike now (only just, corners are an issue) is because I had some strong-willed friends at University.

Sonny needs more support than neuro-typical children obviously, but I want him to be able to ask for help in some situations, where he needs it, but I also want him to learn that when he puts his mind to something he can achieve it.

Who doesn’t love a trier, anyway?

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