A Child With Autism

Our 5 year old son’s preschool teacher asks me regularly what she can do to help Parker.  I never know how to answer her.  Sometimes I get the feeling that she thinks I don’t care enough to offer anything valuable.  I’m actually incapable of offering anything valuable, because I don’t know what this is.  I understand autism intellectually, but our experience with our child isn’t a Wikipedia entry.

Everything that worked yesterday to get him moving, or prevent him from aggravating his younger brother, fails today.  My wife and I feel a lot of guilt for not always knowing how to react.  Parker is such a sweet kid and I can’t imagine a life without him.  I worry about him not being able to make friends in junior high.  Not being able to find a partner.  Not being able to experience life within normal parameters.

We have become more isolated.  Our 6 year old next door neighbor wants to play with Parker regularly.  But we limit it.  The neighbor is a charismatic, athletic, outgoing boy.  I fear that if he gets to know Parker too well, he won’t like him.  But this is me projecting; trying to orchestrate the social interactions between children.  I want to protect Parker from the cruelty of the world — cruelty that he doesn’t have the capacity to understand.

I embarrassed myself in the preschool carpool lane.  It had been a particularly stressful day, with little sleep from the night before.  Once again, Parker refused to get in the car until I thoroughly answered a nonsensical question, while cars backed up behind us.  I could feel the heat of mental strain building up with every car that pressed into the lane.  Finally I managed to get him into his car seat, where he thought it would be a good idea to deliberately poke me in the eye for no reason whatsoever.  So I barked at him for what was probably 10 seconds, but in hindsight seems like 10 minutes.  Mothers in the carpool lane were staring at me while I lost control of my ordinarily mild demeanor.  I’m sure I looked like a Neanderthal to them, while yelling in the face of a 5 year old.  They don’t know that loud sounds coming out of an angry face have little to no impact on him at all.  Sometimes he seems to think it’s a game.  The social cues aren’t there.

I should be doing a better job of preparing for moments like this.  Rather than using the carpool lane, just park the car and walk inside to retrieve the kids.  But there is a conscious denial that still insists we can do things the way that everyone else does them.   We can’t.  I don’t feel victimized by this.  Nor do I feel a sense of martyrdom.  Everyone has problems to solve in their lives.  Some more significant than others.  Ours just exist somewhere along that continuum.  I am, however, having a tough time accepting it.

This has come to dominate our lives over time.  I don’t resent Parker.  He didn’t choose this.  The real frustration comes from not being able to fix it, because there isn’t anything to fix.  This is who he is.  I know there are Dads who really hope their kid will make the baseball team, or one day take over the family business.  I just want Parker to be liked, because he is such a likeable boy (when he isn’t poking his Dad in the eye).  It’s really the only thing I care about.  Everything else is icing.

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13 thoughts on “A Child With Autism

  1. My son has similar behaviors although never diagnosed with Autism, he does lack social cues and has behavioral delays. Last year he was in preschool and I’m sad to say didn’t have the best experience many kids never wanted to play with him. Which of course he didn’t understand he just thought it was all a game. But I did notice his behavior was much worse. He began throwing tantrums that required staff to remove him from the class room, he even injured some staff… Eventually the school year ended and it was time for kindergarten, we moved on to a different school where he has lots of friends and is doing well. Preschool was hell for me. I often felt angry that I HAD to take him to school where I know he play off by himself but kindergarten has been great. For us it was just a matter of finding an environment he was excited about. Hang in there we all lose a minute on our kids special needs or not.

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  2. You and Anne are wonderful parents. You are engaged with your kids and they know that you love them for who they are.
    That’s I‎t. That’s the job.
    Other than that you’re going to screw lots of things up and get other things right.
    Tons of people are going to like and love Parker. He is the sweetest kid ever.
    Your blog rules.
    Love you

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  3. I needed to learn some brand new skills with our now-5-year-old grandson who is on the spectrum. With my children and other grandchildren, I did hoover up advice but essentially I did what came naturally and it worked a treat. But H. needed help from a speech therapist—and playmates. So did we! I hope you are getting the help you need, because every child on the spectrum is unique… and mystifying… and rewarding. I feel for you.

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      1. Oh how I know this day to day thing. Sometimes you just have to vent! I like your honesty and I think that’s part of self-care, right?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I personally want you to know I am here if you ever have any questions, concerns, frustrations or tears too. I’ve worked with many little ones with various abilities & have some ideas that might help.

    Liked by 1 person

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