Autism can be overwhelming in the most amazing ways. It’s not always terrible, it’s not always amazing and sometimes even, it’s both all at once. A night sky full of stars.
Last night Casey came home to find that Abby had accidentally erased the Angry Birds Star Wars ap off of our Ipad, losing all of information saved there. Every level he had passed had been lost along with every award he’d received. He freaked out and I didn’t blame him. Lance and I took turns trying to calm him, but really, when it gets to that point, we are only there to keep him safe. We don’t stop him from screaming and from letting the emotions out. We do try to help talk him back, to empathize with the loss and anger he was feeling, and to tell him we’re sorry. These storms never take a predictable path. I never know what will work to help him find peace. Yesterday it went from him hugging me tight and shaking as he cried to him screaming and biting the pillow and saying over and over again, “I just want to have control over all of the babies!”
Forty-five minutes into it, Lance came in, a feverish Abby in his arms. As he went to lay her next to Casey in bed with us, I protested. “Not a good plan, Lance, he’s really upset with her.” Lance, without saying anything just knowingly smiled and put Abby down on the bed. Abby, snotty and sick, gently cuddled up next to Casey, resting her head on his shoulder. Within a minute, the anger that had filled the room was gone, within five, my two beautiful children were asleep, cuddled close together and breathing in time.
This morning was the mess of madness that accompanies getting my kids out the door to the bus. I had made the mistake of getting in the shower before I got the kids out the door and it threw off my groove. The kids were screaming by the time I was out so I threw on some pajama bottoms and a top as fast as I could and got back to the business of getting my kids out the door. As Casey ran out the door, Peyton yelled, “Where’s your backpack, dude?” I turned around to find the entire contents of Casey’s backpack on the floor…but no backpack. I had JUST packed that thing! I ran through the whole house and could not find it. Finally, I shoved his notebooks and folder into another backpack and sent him out the door.
Yeah, big mistake. Casey took to throwing the backpack up against trees and slamming it over and over on the ground in a fit of “This isn’t my backpack, this isn’t my routine, this isn’t how I had planned this day to go!” I yelled at him from the door to come back, that we’d fix it. Instead, he took off for the bus. I continued to yell as I ran out the door after him. I ran up the street in my pajamas; shoeless, braless, my hair in a half dried mess, begging him to come back. I ran past my neighbors, out with their dogs, or sitting in their cars at the bus stop and straight onto the bus. The sweet bus driver was doing his best to calm Casey down. As I walked up the stairs the first thing I noticed, and it’s an image I will never forget, is the scared look on the faces of the children as they watched Casey scream and yell. They were afraid of him.
Our sweet little neighbor, who is in Casey’s class. Who GETS Casey and loves him for him. While the other kids stared in fear, she sat next to him and tried to calm him. My heart almost fell out of my chest with love for that little girl. Casey would not be calmed, so I got him off the bus, dragged him past the neighbors as they nodded at me in silent support, dragged him down the road and back into our home. I was relieved to find Abby waiting for us at the door, her pajamas half taken off and her hair a crusty snotty mess.
Usually, if Casey doesn’t get on the bus, his routine is too upset and he can’t make it through the school day. I still wanted to try, wanted to hope that his day would not be lost to this upset. I grabbed Casey a can of Diet Dr. Pepper to sip on (it calms him) while I got ready to take him to school. I found his backpack on the floor of my bathroom (not sure why he took it up there…) and reloaded it.
We got to school and I could tell Casey was off. He was still battling the rage he had felt minutes before. His breath was still a little shaky from the sobs. Abby in tow, I walked with him slowly up to his school, where his amazing principal met us. She’s out there every morning to greet the children. As we came up, she knew immediately things were not good. She knows that Casey has to ride the bus. I hugged Casey and said, “Are you going to have a great day today?” He did not answer. The principal did not miss a beat, she THREW her arms around Casey and said, “I am going to have THE BEST DAY because you’re here Casey! Let me walk you to class.” And with a sly smile, Casey took her hand and they walked away.
Autism can make the world seem so dark at times. It’s in those times, though, that the stars shine their brightest. The shining moments where anger melts away because of the sweetness of a 2 year old, where a friend is not afraid to be TRUE friend even when it’s hard, and where a principal takes the opportunity to change a boys day completely with one simple sentence.
They are the stars.