“I hate you! I hate you!” Declan yelled at me as loud as he could in the middle of the store.
I knew he didn’t hate me. He was using his angry words. He had been using his angry words for a few days.
The trip was an overall disaster. He brought 3 toys and threw them repeatedly. He pulled things off shelves. He stared at the lights and shook his head back and forth repeatedly. He clawed my hands holding the cart. He grit his teeth.
The following day, we decided to go out to eat as a family. The screaming ensued. His body was tensing in weird pretzel formations. He was grinding his teeth. He moved from his chair to under the table frequently, he knocked over drinks.
We get Declan home and he was still having a hard time. He ended up in time out and resorted to a behavior we have not seen in some time. He got on all fours and banged his head against the ground as hard as he could. Again and again.
What is going on?
So many times we see Declan, shining bright. He is doing so well, and then autism comes in to eclipse our shining star.
We have come so far, it is so hard to see the negative parts of autism. To have to handle these behaviors as frustrating and hurtful as they are. But it always makes me realize something else, too. How hard it must be on Declan to have to experience what he is experiencing.
His body will tense, his teeth will grind. His head will go back, his shoulders will go up. Sometimes it looks like someone is pinching him right between the shoulders. HARD. His head will shake back and forth. He will hum.
I see him trying to shake the feelings. I see him trying to work through them. When he was younger, we were coached to throw him on the couch to provide him with sensory input. Now, he will run full speed and crash into the couch. As soon as he lands, he runs back across the room and does it again. And again. And again.
There are times that things are going so well, you can forget that autism is always lingering in the background. Declan is doing so well with all of his supports and therapies. We give him supplements that we have read may help lessen his symptoms. We have his trampoline, his sensory sock and his music always ready to help him calm down. We provide deep pressure to tensing muscles. Sometimes, Declan just runs and crashes into the couch when he feels the need.
And sometimes, no matter how hard we all try, the negative parts of autism will come take over for a bit.
I have felt like helping Declan with autism is like riding a wave. We ride the wave, high on its peak and are smiling, soaring through the water. The wave will stop and bring us down. We take a moment and are pulled back a few steps while we wait for the next wave to surge. But then we are riding high again.
So as we sit and I block him from banging his head. Holding him tight, massaging his shoulders, singing quietly – frustrated and sad for all that he is going through, I trust that this is just but a moment. And we will be riding high on the wave again, in just a little bit.