Susan's Blog

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Off to a Good Start

Last night we all went to a New Year’s party at a friend’s in Cambridge. All went well. Hannah and Max enjoyed playing with the host’s new Rovio, Ben played with our friend’s little sons, and Nat bounced around, listening to the music and eating the cookies. He was nervous around their dog at first, but eventually he settled down, which was a new thing. I was so proud of him. I did feel the need to explain his frenetic bouncing and flapping to people I met there, and I would do so with a smile. “He’s autistic, you know,” I would say. “I’m just saying. He’s very happy to be here!” And they would nod and that would be that.

I marvel at how I’ve changed in that regard. I know I’ve said this before but I used to dread bringing Nat places, and to watch people watching him. There has been such a sea change in me, however. Now I love to watch people watching him, I feel like they’re kind of lucky to see Nat. I feel that way about all of my children; very proud of their whole being.

And when we got home, around 12:45 a.m., Nat’s light was not working properly. Very quickly he ramped up to the screaming and the arm-biting. It is a terrible thing to witness, a person getting so worked up into a rage, and you just know that he knows it and he can’t stop himself. It has always felt that way to me, as if it were a self-perpetuating, snow-balling kind of thing for Nat when he gets that upset. I can almost feel him giving up, giving in to it. I think I do that, too. It is very familiar.

So that thought kept me connected to him and allowed me to think on my feet and help him, rather than just being afraid and reactive. I said sharply, “Nat! You can do this. Nat! Sit here, calmly, for two minutes. I’m going to set the timer.” He sat down, and immediately started screaming again, so I repeated the whole thing, even resetting the timer. One more go around, and then he stopped.

I think distracting him with the simple request to sit down and wait for the timer was a good way to create a space around him, so that he could regroup. I could then talk to him about how things break, how the light switch was broken and Daddy was fixing it. I reminded him that things break and we can fix them; see, there’s the screwdriver. He started sucking his thumb and even doing a bit of his own language, and I could tell he was feeling better.

I feel very proud that the whole thing seemed within a spectrum of familiar events. Nat did not seem like a creature, nor did the outburst seem “out of the blue.” It made a lot of sense, actually. Stupid old house with its old wiring. Anyway, I think it was the start of a good year.


Hi Susan,
Interesting to read about you and Nat!

Happy New Year !!

Aspie Bird

— added by Aspie Bird on Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Happy New Year Susan. I love reading your blog. Your perpective is always interesting and your love for your family is always evident. I can’t believe how much Nat has grown and learned since I began reading. I am more patient and hopeful about my 11 year old daughter’s uneven progress when I see how well Nat does (and continues to grow). Love, Susie

— added by Anonymous on Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I love how you said you werent reactive… it’s so true and true for me too. We have learned to talk Meghan through to calm her as well. It’s such a great feeling to know how to help your child instead of feeling helpless and scared.

— added by Holly Nappi Collins on Friday, January 2, 2009 at 9:57 pm

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