Before I get into the “meat” of this post, allow me to tell you just a little about myself.
To begin with, my training and credentials regarding Autism amount to zilch other than my experiences with a certain five-year-old named Garrett (and a few random encounters with other Autistic children and their parents, siblings and friends).
I decided to write this blog upon confirmation of my son’s Autism. My reasons were manifold, but among them were that I felt I might be able to give folks a picture of a day in the life of a daddy dealing with his (moderately) Autistic son. To be clear, Garrett can speak, and is not “trapped within himself,” as appears to be the case with many who are apparently Autistic (I say apparently, because I’m pretty convinced Autism is not a single condition, and I’m not sure more severe supposed cases of Autism are the same thing as that with which I deal).
Okay, having made my disclaimers, allow me to continue.
I cannot speak for but a few people I have met who deal with Autism on a daily basis, but one of the things I can say with surety about my son, and have heard from others dealing with Autistic folks, is that in some regards, Autism looks an awful lot like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
To give you a picture of what I’m talking about, let me take you to multiple outings to the local Zoo.
First, we drive to the Zoo (a relatively short distance). Next, we make our way through the gate, this can be between five minutes and an hour—and no, it doesn’t just depend on the throng pressing the gates. You see, Garrett may “need to” go around the giraffe sculptures at the front gate an unknowable amount of times. He may need to play with the water fountain. He may need to hide multiple times, under a table.
About now, you’re probably thinking, “Just your average three to five year old.” That’s where you would be mistaken. I’m sure you have had your four year old “pitch a fit” when you tried to get him or her to actually enter some place like the Zoo when he or she is “not ready.” With Garrett though, for a long time, he was not ready every time he went to a given place. And he would “pitch that fit” every time you tried to get him to go into that place when he “wasn’t ready.”
In fact, because of the tendency towards resistance to change on the part of my Autistic little boy, I’m having to give you the “abridged version.” I won’t go into detail on how it took me an hour or more to convince him to get into clothes, comb his hair, or get out the door. I’ll just barely tell you that he had to play for half an hour outside before I could convince him to get into a car seat. And for each event there was a “risk of meltdown” if I didn’t do things in very specific ways.
On with our journey! Now it’s time to run like a little madman for a while (yes, much like many kids that age) until we find our next repetitive activity.
Daddy chases as Garrett leads to the pavilion in the Zoo with its many purposes. Our purpose here? To open and shut that outer door until we are satisfied we have done it enough times, of course! We open, shut, open, go through, shut until we decide it is time to move on. There is variation, but for this hour and a half, it is about pretty much all about variations on opening and closing the door. I’m not exaggerating here, it could be fifteen minutes, it could be two hours, but on average, it’s an hour and a half bare minimum.
You can be assured, by the way, that daddy making me leave this pursuit is grounds for a major meltdown unless he does so in just the right fashion. The funny thing is though, daddy pretty much never tries to make Garrett abandon such an activity except against need. Why? Because he has a suspicion—a hunch, if you will—upon which he is working.
He is, over the course of time, well rewarded for that hunch, and letting the boy have his way. You see, in the course of time, the need to do such things, has decreased drastically. This is true to the point that, by this time of life, Garrett is far more prone to appear to many, like a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, than one with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And every so often (increasing also over the course of time), is a tendency toward balance. That place on the “razor’s edge” that a few people (maybe more than I account) find, in which, they are neither obsessed with a given thing, nor so flighty that they look entirely hyperactive and appear to have no attention span.
A part of the process, is daddy working to find “motivators”—things that will cause me to move on, to be interested in things other than those about which I obsess.
You could say there are two “natures challenging one another” in Garrett. The first is that resistance to change that leads to OCD-like behavior, the second is the need to see and “order” (after his own “picture of reality”) the many things about him. Does anybody really understand the “drivers?” I would argue that it is entirely doubtful. I would argue that even an Autistic person is unable to do that.
Keep in mind, the picture I have just painted is not a “complete portrait” of what it “looks like from the outside,” when observing a person with Autism. And as a matter of “light at the end of the tunnel” for some reading this, it is not (if care is taken, and maybe even if not) a “final destination.” Just as with any other child, the child with Autism will grow, and hopefully, will change into something more like what you expect to see.
As is often the case with things about which I greatly enjoy writing, I have “reached my word and time limit” on this far before I was ready so to do.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day!