“He’s working on it”
“A few months ago, Declan could use scissors correctly. He would pick them up and although it would take him a second, he would eventually put the scissors in his hand correctly and use them.” Declan’s Occupational Therapist paused, looked at me and continued, “Now, he is looking at the scissors and unable to recall how to hold them. It is as if he has to relearn how to hold them each time he picks them up.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, “He cannot hold the scissors now, but he’s working on it. He will learn.”
“She’s Working on it”
“Catelyn, please. No cartwheels here. There are way too many people!” I said pointing to all the field hockey players moving around the arena. I couldn’t believe my sons flag football game was still occurring in the middle of a large field hockey tournament that was well underway.
A team of girls was moving from one field to another, dodging Catelyn’s cartwheels when I asked her to stop.
“FINE!” Catelyn yelled. The team slowed, their mouth guard chewing slowed, large sets of eyes moved between the two of us, all probably thinking, “Woah, if I talked to my mom like that……”
“Catelyn please come here and sit down. Now, take a deep breath.”
She flopped. She sagged. She took 3 deep breaths.
The team moved on and I returned my gaze to the flag football game ahead.
In weeks previous, I was invited to a party. As I answered the door and greeted the guests, I realized they all brought their daughters with them. Daughters the same age as my Catelyn. I looked up and felt the sting in my throat. I had seen the raised eyebrows from the women before about Catelyn’s behavior. I looked back at the guests and swallowed. I recognized the courtesy of bringing my daughter was not offered to me, and brought the mother daughter duos inside.
Then one day at school, I was called to console a sobbing Catelyn. She had signed up for the wrong school lunch and did not want to eat the salad she had mistakenly chosen. Frustrated and feeling out of control that no one was listening, Catelyn let her emotions rule and was taken to the school’s office. I quickly came to the school with a packed lunch and did some deep breathing and positive thinking with Catelyn. Once she was calmed, she was ready to start again and I left her to go on her way.
At another event, Catelyn was politely asked to move over. Which she agreed to with another, “FINE!!” A family friend witnessed the interaction and his jaw dropped. With his eyebrows high to the sky and his head shaking back and forth, he walked away, pouring out the feeling, “If that were my kid…..”
Autism is a spectrum disorder and is often referred to as an invisible disability. You could look at both Catelyn and Declan and not know right away they experience the world different from you. Eventually, you will realize something is “off” with Declan. But all you will wonder with Catelyn, who has High Functioning Autism, is why on some days, she is so rude to just walk by you without a smile or hello.
It is much easier for others to give Declan certain allowances for his behavior because his needs are more apparent. High Functioning Autism can be very hard for an outsider to detect, and accept. So although Catelyn’s differences are not as apparent, they are still there.
As her shield, I will let you know what is hard to realize:
Catelyn has a lot of good days. It is easy to forget that she has different obstacles.
Catelyn is not trying to be bad or rude.
Catelyn is not trying to be hurtful.
Catelyn does not see dropped jaws or raised eyebrows. Those social cues are lost on her. But I see them.
Interacting socially is hard for Catelyn. The skills do not come naturally to her. She is in therapy and learning.
As a family, we also pick our battles. Our battles may just look a little different.
Catelyn does not know she is causing a scene. She is not aware of others in her surroundings when she is emotional.
Please do not judge her.
Please look past the behaviors and the words to see a wonderful, fun and loving little girl.
Autism is a spectrum disorder. Different needs are not always apparent.
Picking up and using a pair of scissors comes easy to me. Smiling and saying “Hi” to someone when I see them comes easy to me. But these kind of things do not come naturally to everyone. My children will continue with their therapies to help them make their soon to be strengths, a reality.
Hey, they’re working on it. They will learn.