I was going to write about socialization this evening, but after the day my husband and I had with our son, I feel the need to talk about moods and triggers.
Jeff and I try really hard to figure out what our son’s triggers are and to work around them. Cam is only four years old, and our primary goal is to make sure he feels safe. For example, Cam cannot cope well with the sensory stimulation of grocery stores, so we don’t take him with us to grocery shop. I don’t believe in making him “get used to” his sensory challenges because, frankly, that hasn’t worked. If he could get accustomed to his sensory triggers, he wouldn’t have autism. He would just be a sensitive kid who needed extra time to adjust. The fact is Cam does have autism, so we do as many “workarounds” as we can to help him feel safe and happy.
That being said, there are days when we don’t understand what is going on with our son, and we can’t figure out how to help him. Some days, Cam is hyper, volatile, and destructive, and we can’t trace it back to a trigger. On those occasions, we know Cam can’t control his impulses and actions, so we rarely discipline him; we just wait it out.
Today, Cam was jumping on his trampoline and spitting for no reason (that I was aware of). I maintained my composure, made calm corrections, and let it go. But, then, he began jumping onto the sofa from the trampoline, nearly hitting the dog. After multiple warnings, I had to give Cam a time-out for five minutes in his room. When it comes to safety issues, I have to be firm. I pick my battles as much as I can. Sadly, on days like today, there is just one escalating battle after another.
I often go with Cam to time-outs to help him settle down. On other days, if he is on a roll, I use the five minutes to breathe and settle down myself. My husband and I remind ourselves repeatedly that Cam’s behavior is not personal and not about us, but we get frustrated and angry; we’re human. I know that autism brings gifts, but I can’t deny that it can also bring hyperactivity and aggression. At times, I feel like I’m waiting out a torrent of negative energy that won’t stop. Autism, at least at age four, is complex and challenging.
Luckily, most days aren’t like today. Cam’s bad moods usually do have a trigger. The more we understand those sensory or social triggers, and work around them, the happier he is. Even today, I would guess that Cam’s struggles were caused by poor sleep. We tried melatonin as a sleep aid, and it seems to have caused nightmares and turbulent sleep. At least, I think that’s what happened; I can’t know for sure.
My husband and I will keep looking for clues. It has been paying off. Cam is much happier, secure, and loving this year than last. We got his diagnosis in February and have had months to adjust our lifestyle. We have also gotten a great deal more patient. We find the more we let small behavioral infractions go and respond with patience and love to Cam’s aggression, the fewer issues we have. The more sensory triggers we avoid, the more social and sweet he becomes. Unfortunately, there are still very hard, “hold my head in my hands” kinds of days, but we are seeing less of them.