This week we celebrated a very special weekend for mommy - Mother's Day! Being a mother has been and continues to be one of the greatest adventures I've been blessed with. It hits every single emotion I could possibly express and usually leaves me questioning whether I'm doing it right.
When you become a parent you are instantly flooded with the "I can't wait for..." moments!
"I can't wait for her to look at me and smile"
"I can't wait for her to say mommy, and tell me she loves me"
"I can't wait for her to run up to me and hug me because she missed me that much!"
And so on, and so on!
While these moments are typical milestones for most neurotypical (NT) kids, autistic kiddos, like yourself, tend to leave us to wait a little longer, but it's not out of dislike for your loving parents - we know that! These moments just don't come easy for you.
Let me explain.
As with many things in life, there's not an exact answer, so finding the best answer for me is generally to go to the source! So having said that, there's no better view than an autistic point of view. A very well known autistic YouTuber Remrov Casey Vormer was asked about this very topic and said:
"There are a few different reasons", for her, it feels "unnatural" and it's difficult for her to gauge how long to hold eye contact with a person. "With all of these different concerns combined together, making eye contact triggers a kind of sensory overload, making it too difficult to focus on the actual content of the conversation."
Let’s talk about language. Language can be divided into 2 main parts: expressive and receptive. Basically what you "say" (express), and what you "get back" (receptive). Easy enough right?
Both expressive and receptive language skills are necessary to be effective in communicating. When either is not functioning properly, that's when our communication takes a nose dive. You see Addie, all children with autism will have some sort of a language deficit depending on their actual diagnosis.
You my dear have a TON of language. The trick for you is trying to figure out where and when it gets used properly.
For example, when its time to go to bed, you say "bye bye, see you soon, all done, good nights, shoes." You would say all these things just when we'd say "good night Addie."
Your brain went into overdrive running through files in your head searching for the appropriate response. "Bye bye, see you soon" coincide with leaving because you were physically leaving to go to another room. "All done" coincides with being finished with whatever we were doing and moving onto the next thing. "Good night" just a repetitive phrase you'd hear during this time of the day. Last but not least "shoes" because when ever you go somewhere you need shoes. All this just to say "good night."
You are always working extra hard to find the right response and sometimes you can get overloaded with looking for too many answers that grabbing my hand and guiding me to the bedroom might just be easier than opening your mouth at all!
Humans have six basic emotions – happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, fear and disgust.
I'm sure you remember that adorably funny movie Inside Out (side note: I'm pretty sure the movie clumped surprise and happiness together to create joy - she was my favorite character :)).
Having autism makes it harder for you to:
*Recognize facial expressions and more importantly, the emotions behind them!
*To be able to mimic or use emotional expressions
*Understand and control your own emotions
*Understand and interpret emotions – which may make it seem like you lack, or seem to lack, empathy with others.
You have been working really hard on this too Addie! In fact just recently you were sick with a fever, but just kept saying "I sad, I sad".
You couldn't seem to find the words to say I'm sick, but recognized the feeling of sadness it brought you, to which you expressed beautifully. You indeed looked very SADdie to those around you :( This too was a very big deal for us because you were telling me something was wrong. I then just needed to use my super sleuth skills to figure out what exactly was the problem.
Deep touch pressure (such as hugging) acts as a calming agent to increase activity in the parasympathetic division of the brain (its general function is to control homeostasis and the body's rest-and-digest response), and lower activity in the sympathetic division (its general action is to mobilize the body's fight-or-flight response (it's looking for the threat!) of the Autonomic Nervous System.
Phew that was a lot I know! Let that soak in a second!
OK...So this type of opposition in movement of activity in the two divisions work together to increase endorphin levels (happy hormones - yay!) and decrease heart rate and blood pressure (both indicators of anxiety and stress). This is all great stuff on keeping SADdie from paying us a visit
But, uh oh it's not that easy...
Insert the next challenge here - allowing people to enter your personal space.
Sweetie, this is actually difficult for a lot of people.
I can tell you Addie, there's nothing worse than someone standing so close to you that you can in fact pin-point exactly what type of fabric softener they use. Side note: I guess fabric softener is not exactly a bad smell, it could be worse! You get the point.
I get it.
But your tiny body craves deep pressure touch, so when a hug was ever initiated you would quickly turn around, and back in to receive such contact. And only for a few seconds at that, until you'd make your big break away.
You got a small dose of what you needed without sacrificing too much personal space.
I can remember even as a baby you were quite happy and content laying on a blanket in the middle of the living room floor. Just alone, in your own space, surveying your surroundings.
We learned early on that you just didn't seem to require that physical interaction of finding comfort in being held close. A very different experience then when Clara and Gabe were babies.
That is until recently.
Something has changed Addie. You've let down your guard. You've stopped turning away from us. Your little arms wrap around me, head falls to my shoulder, and you actually squeeze back.
If there was ever a moment I'd want to freeze...
It's funny how things we cherish the most change throughout our lives. Where a simple hug is seen as such a priceless gift!
So this Mother's Day weekend you gifted me an embrace in the space between us, with a real hug. I waited 6 long years for this "I can't wait for..." moment and it was as sweet as ever!
Thank you Addie.
I love you and all your squeezes!