Kirsten Doyle is my guest blogger for today and I an honored to have her a part of my blog. She's a good friend that I've known for about a year. We both have children with autism... So I hope you enjoy her post as much as I do.
It was dinner-time but no-one was eating. Plates of chicken nuggets and chips lay abandoned on the dining room table as the sole focus in the house shifted to the screaming, crying boy on the floor.
This meltdown had been about half an hour in the making. It had started mildly enough, with my older son George trying to pull me away from the oven. He didn’t want me to turn it on. The digital temperature display upsets him because the numbers don’t go up in even increments. The predictability of numbers comforts him, and when he cannot tell what number is going to show up next, he gets upset.
When the oven beeped to signify that the desired temperature had been reached, George was visibly relieved. I cooked the chicken nuggets, served up the dinner and put it on the table along with glasses of orange juice. George and his brother James sat down to eat.
I pressed the “Off” button on the oven. And that’s when George exploded.
He launched himself onto the floor, and with a nimbleness borne of experience, I was able to reach him before he started smashing his head onto the hardwood.
I somehow managed to get this tall, gangly melting-down kid into the carpeted area, and I tried my best to restrain him for his own protection. While this has never been easy, it used to at least be manageable. George is eight now, and although he’s skinny, he’s as tall as most nine-year-olds. He is all arms and very long legs, and he is unbelievably strong, especially when he is in the midst of a meltdown.
At one point during this incident, George looked directly into my eyes, and my heart twisted as I saw the sadness and frustration painted all over his face. I got the sense that he was trying to reach me, but did not know how. He was not responding to anything I was doing or saying. He seemed to be trapped in this meltdown, unable to escape.
James, who is all of six years old, bravely approached the danger zone of flailing arms and kicking legs. He touched George gently on the back, and for the briefest second, George paused. It was only a glimmer of a moment, but it was something. In that instant George responded to his brother more than he had responded to me in all of the preceding fifteen minutes.
James kind of took over from that point. He calmly brought George bits of food, which he ate, and juice, which he drank. He gave George little hugs and squeezed his hand.
George accepted James’ ministrations, pausing to take the food or let himself be hugged, and then going right back to the screaming and crying and flopping around.
James seemed to just know what George needed at any given moment, as if there was some unspoken communication going on between them. It was an almost mystical phenomenon to witness.
Slowly, slowly, George started to calm down. When he got to the point of still crying but no longer kicking, James jumped up and ran out of the room. He returned moments later with a wet washcloth. And with a tenderness that brought tears to my eyes, he wiped George’s face.
Then he simply on the floor beside his brother, waiting patiently for the last of the tears to stop.
You can find Kirsten at these various locations:
Link to my blog: http://runningforautism.com
Twitter handle: @running4autism
Until next time....