Susan's Blog

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bundle of Joy

Nat was the first baby the family had seen in a decade or so, the first baby of all of my friends.  I look back and even though I was 27, I was like a girl with that tot.  I had no one to ask except my mom, who lived three hours away.  So everything was a discovery, so many things were a surprise.

One thing I remember being utterly surprised about was the swaddling.  I had no idea people did that.  The hospital nurses would present you with this tightly-wrapped bundle with a hatted head sticking out.  The hats also surprised me.  Everything was different from the cartoons, I guess, which were my only frame of reference.  In the end, cartoons of babyhood turned out to be just as accurate a depiction of infancy with Nat as Brazelton, Leach, or Spock.  (If only Eustacia Cutler had written a baby book:  Living With and Loving Your Autistic Baby. How wonderful!  Maybe I should.  Chapter 1.  Delight in his placid nature. 2.  The Difference Between Stimulation and Overstimulation.  3. I See a Line of Cars…4.  Revelling in Routines.  5.  Sesame Street:  Who Cares?  6.  Finding  Other Special Needs Parents to Hang With.)

Being too soft and well, clueless as Nat’s Mommy, I couldn’t even swaddle properly. It seemed weird to me.  I didn’t like it.  I wanted to feel him, not wrap him up.  The blanket ends always came undone.  Ned had to do it.  He was a champion swaddler.  He would wrap the boys into tight footballs and pass them to me like an eager quarterback.  It was explained to us that the swaddling calmed the baby, made him feel better from the pressure; it was womb-like.  That made sense to me. I imagine now that swaddling felt really good to Nat, if it’s true what they say about deep pressure being a relief to many with ASD.  I think deep pressure is a relief to many of us.

Over the years I forgot about the beneficial pressure from swaddling, and as Nat graduated from OT and Sensory Integration Therapy (more accurately, was kicked out for being too old or too aggressive), we forgot about deep pressure, and how well he responded to being held that way.

As an adult, Nat is always on the go.  He burns hot and fast.  Sometimes that spills over into his emotional state.  Lately we have seen the return of his anxiety, which does seem to be somewhat seasonally inspired.  Autumn, even a gorgeous summery autumn like this one, sets him on edge.  I am not surprised; it does that to me, too.  The air and the light is too sharp, like glass.  Everything has sped up:  the pace, the change of leaf colors, the routines.  It may be that Nat enjoys the routine of fall, but that it’s “too much joy,” something I’ve mentioned in earlier posts.  Too much joy for Nat means it’s just too good to bear and it flips over into anxiety.

I got the weekly call from Nat’s teacher and I was not surprised to hear that Nat’s been getting worked up about routines, particularly other people’s routines.  He is a yenta of the first degree, his nose in everyone else’s business:  “Mommy will get dressed;” “Daddy will take off his shoes;” “Ben will eat breakfast;” “Max will wake up” (good luck with that, my son)  At school he watches and waits for everyone to do what they’re supposed to do.  We are all slugs, laggards in Nat’s view.  He’s fast and efficient; what’s wrong with the rest of us??

I was interested to hear Will, Nat’s teacher, say that what he has found works to help Nat be less anxious is to be firm with him.  Confident, not soft.  Direct.  Tell him it is not his business, that we are not talking about Eli or Sam right now.  He only has to think about Nat, not Max, Ben, or Mommy.  (And people say autistics don’t notice anyone but themselves!  Hmph)

I told Ned that we are going to have to try to be more consistent and firm with Nat, that it will alleviate his stress and calm him down, even though it seems counter-intuitive.

But not to Ned.  “It’s just like the swaddling,” he said.  Ned knows — has always known — that Nat just needs to be reigned in, and held tight.


Susan you and Ned are very impressive parents!!

— added by Lewis Marcus on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 10:05 am

Swaddling and deep pressure are one of those “autism stereotypes” AKA lies. See…. there’s this other group of children and adults… one’s like my eldest that hated being held, that wanted to be fed and left alone. That when he sat in my lap, sat straight up and my arms had to be beside me, not around him…

The severely claustrophobic and ante-touch group. The one’s that get told they have ADHD b/c they fidgit all the time.

That child is also got his nose stuck in everyone else’s business… he’s 11 and it’s driving me INSANE!!! I’m not even polite about it anymore to him… flat out blunt… and even then half the time he doesn’t get it and I wish he’d go out and ride his bike so I’d get 2 sec of peace and quiet… Yet, he doesn’t ramble all the time at school – how did I get so lucky?? Sigh…. And it ranges from “Be quiet, I’m not discussing that any longer” (good luck b/c he’s never quiet and constantly demanding attention and worked up about something that’s neither his business or happened long ago or isn’t happening until well into the future…), “Go away, it isn’t 7am yet”, (2min later he’s back), “Your brother is doing what he wants to do and you are NOT the adult in this house, I am”. (2 sec later he’s harassing him again and in panic mode b/c in his opinion his younger bro shouldn’t be playing on the computer systems that aren’t the CD’s or doing whatever he’s too scared to do or not able to figure out or, or, or…).

Ironically this 11yr old child “passes for normal” – 100% verbal, does average at school with minimal support, social skills are actually very good for his dx… Yet, in many ways is more autistic than his severely autistic bro.

— added by farmwifetwo on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 12:38 pm

#5 Sesame Street: Who Cares? Made me just laugh out loud. It drove me insane to no end that my firstborn (and autie) had zero interest in Sesame Street. I loved SS, and was determined that my kid would love it too, by God. He had absolutely NO interest in it whatsoever, and it drove me batty. LOL.

— added by ASDmomNC on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Your Ned is a smart, smart man. Well, obviously, I mean, he married you. But, I am really seeing a similar dynamic between my husband and son, too. Interesting.

— added by Niksmom on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I agree with you about the deep pressure. Have you ever tried a weighted blanket? Heaven! The “human pasta machine” contraption, not so much! P.S. I think the nurses swaddle the babies partly because it just makes them SLEEP in the nursery!

— added by Cathy from CT on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Oh my goodness, you need to write that baby book! I laughed but only because babyhood is a good 10 years behind me. I remembering flipping through Spock et al pre-diagnosis at about 20 months and wondering why my firstborn didn’t fit the mold. Your wisdom from that perspective would be priceless.

— added by Audra on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I agree that there should be a baby book in your future, with a section or two for Ned to spread his wisdom.

— added by lisa on Monday, September 27, 2010 at 10:28 am

This post made me laugh as I recalled my own swaddling days (I was terrible at it). My little one did like touch and deep pressure, so it’s a good thing I’m better at hugging!

— added by kim mccafferty on Monday, September 27, 2010 at 11:03 am

Susan, I too think you should write that baby book! I had a good laugh out of numbers 1,3, and 5. Might I also suggest things like “Tablefood is for the weak”, “I only want the soothie pacifiers”, “O ceiling fan O ceiling fan-you spin so marvelous” And our personal favorite “Lightswitch ON, Lightswitch OFF, Lightswitch ON, Lightswitch OFF”

Nick has always enjoyed deep pressure. Even now when he gets out of sorts he will request to be squeezed.

— added by amy on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 12:48 am

Perhaps you and Amy could collaborate on a book? The chapter titles reflect a reality not seen in many places.

— added by Barbara on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 9:46 pm


— added by Susan Senator on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Wouldn’t that be a riot?! Imagine a book looking at the humorous side of autism….I mean, we just got to laugh sometimes ladies. 😀

— added by amy on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 1:24 am

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