Working On It

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“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.”

“Oh.”

“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.

17 thoughts on “Working On It

    1. Aww, thank you, Elaine! I’ve missed you and your posts too. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas and peaceful 2017 too!

  1. Aw I’m so sad that you were there helping your friend and she didn’t let you know that the others were bringing their daughters and yours wasn’t invited. No allowances for Catelyn there then from so called friends. If there had been a discussion between mother and daughter about daughter not wanting Catelyn there, this might have been a good opportunity for your friend to discuss how everyone is different and some people need more understanding. I can’t imagine how you’d have felt – I’d be fuming! Instead, you write a beautifully diplomatic and educational post about it – good for you! Best wishes for the Festive Season.

    1. Yes, it hurt. I took the message quietly, but heard it loudly. I have spoken to friends about High Functioning Autism and it seems to be way harder for people to accept and understand. It is easier to put the behavior into something more familiar, like “rude.” Thank you! Christmas has brought out a lot of energy and excitement causing Catelyn and Declan to take a few steps back in their learning. I understand what is happening, but others do not when they see “bad behavior.” I let the events build up until I was completely frustrated with her not being understood and realized I had something to say 🙂 Best wishes to you and yours too!!

      1. The 7 children I care for are all hyper and excitable at the moment. It’s all change to routine at this time of year and I can see why your children are “on a break” from learning.

  2. Cate has a fantastic mind, she is creative, she loves a challenge, she is very loving. Those judging her are the loser for they will never have the pleasure of her company.

  3. Autism is so misunderstood which makes the need for Autism Awareness so important. If people were better educated hopefully they would judge less. It seems it was a deliberate decision the hostess made to exclude Catie from the party and the only reason being is that she has high functioning autism. It’s a shame the offended hostess doesn’t know how amazing and fun Catie is and can’t see how much she wants to be loved and accepted like any other child. At least let the decision to accept or decline be yours and Caties.

  4. Everyone learns at their own pace. PEOPLE BLESSED WITH AUTISM, the pace is really special! Trying to rush their pace will end up as a major bloody disaster!

    Hope you have a disaster free (yeah, I know it is a pipe dream..) season this year! Keep spider man costumes handy for all occasions. Hope Catelyn finds a safe place to practice her cartwheels as much as she likes.

    “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night”

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