autism

Understanding.

Imagine your child has a pet. A pet they’ve had for years and are deeply attached to. Now imagine your child losing that pet. What would happen? Wailing? Gnashing of teeth? Would the loss of such a pet mean that the child couldn’t, understandably, even make it through a school day because of their insurmountable sadness?  

Now imagine that happening every day. Sometimes twice a day. This is what happens with Casey’s Angry Birds plush toys. He’s obsessed. He usually has one that is the focus of his entire being, but if he’s home, he’s you can find him surrounded by at least three or four of them. The minute one goes missing-and it happens all of the time-Casey’s black and white thinking won’t allow for calm. The bird is gone forever.  He can’t think clearly to retrace his steps to find where he carried it off to. In his rage, he usually blames Abby. Abby’s not always innocent. She enjoys trucking those birds around, too.  Lance and I spend a great deal of time searching for Angry Birds.

That’s what the last two days have been. Casey lost his Bomb Bird, pictured here in better times (he’s the black one):

angry  frustrating damn birds

He also lost the “Boomerang” bird, but that wasn’t the focus of his sorrow this time. The loss of the bird mirrored the sorry of losing a beloved family pet.  He wailed. Deep, heartbreaking sobs. We assured him that we’d find it, but it wasn’t enough to settle him down. I heard him up talking several times during the night, and he was up for the day at 4:45.

The morning went fine, but by noon, I got a call from the school saying that Casey was too sick to stay. We’ve had colds running through the house, so I imagined one was coming on when I went to get him. He seemed so out of it. As I was talking to his para, he slumped down on the floor and leaned his head against the window. I watched as he stared off into the distance. He was still. Casey’s never still.

The day moved on with me doing my best to distract him from the missing birds as I searched.  It was good in that it gave me a much needed reason to clean out closets, and under all of the couches and beds in our house. But still, no bird. Carter was home sick, too, so I couldn’t just take him to get a new one. I couldn’t have done that anyway, really, because when I mentioned buying him a new one, his fit escalated. “I want muhmuhmuh myyyyy Bomb Bird!” he sobbed.

I cleaned out everything. Lance went so far as to searching the neighborhood, even knocking on doors. We were just a shade of crazy away from putting up missing signs.  The wailing escalated to screaming and aggression.  With the sound of his cries echoing in my ears, I picked up my keys and went out buy a new angry bird to “find” in the yard.  My breath caught over the lump in my throat as I went to tell my husband I was leaving. There in our bedroom, with only a little light seeping in from the closet,  was Lance, holding my very-tall-for-his-age son against his chest, rocking him in an effort to help him find some peace. “Shhhhh….” he whispered as the sobs still reverberated through Casey’s body.

Five stores. I went to five stores. By the fifth, I was seriously fighting back tears. My ears were ringing and my body ached from the massive overhaul I had done on the house. I couldn’t imagine having Casey wake up in the morning without his bird. I don’t know if he could handle it. I wasn’t sure I could either. It wasn’t until then that I realized that Casey hadn’t come home because he was cold-sick. He was heartsick. The plush toy means as much to him as any attachment people have.  I stopped thinking about how we didn’t have an extra ten dollars to spend on it or that maybe I shouldn’t get him one to teach him to be better with his toys (it wouldn’t work, Autism always wins the Losing Stuff battles). I felt for a second his pain.  Rejected from all the regular stores that I hoped would carry it, I figured that maybe getting him his Halloween costume- again, a Bomb Bird- would be enough to cheer him up for a day so I could call around to find him a new one. They didn’t have the costume.  My insides sunk, tears betrayed me. I wiped them off with the back of my hand and kind of laughed at the craziness of it all.  I tried to reason with the Autism, “It’s just a silly bird!” my brain screamed.  But Autism and I both knew that wasn’t true. The bird was Casey’s friend. He doesn’t have many of those. As I trudged slowly out the door, something on a cash register caught my eye.

A lone Bomb Bird.

I picked it up and embraced it like any tearful crazy woman at 8:45 in a party supply would do. I and moved down two registers to a waiting employee. “Did you find everything okay?” She said with a smile. My voice caught as I said, “Yes, I did.” And then I just said to hell with it and let the tears flow freely. “You don’t understand,” I said trying to lessen the employee’s shock at my affection for a plush toy, “My son is autistic. We haven’t been able to find his bird…I’ve been everywhere…”

“I understand,” She said back. My eyes met hers, and she had tears in them as well. “My son has autism, too.”

23 thoughts on “Understanding.

  1. Oh my goodness I have been there several times, my son is also obsessed with angy birds and he knows every single one he owns. It’s extremely frustrating and heartbreaking at times. Thank you for sharing it helps to know I’m not alone.

  2. This is the first time I am commenting on your posts. I read every one you post and each time am amazed by your insite and eloquence with words. You manage to put things in perspective and remind me of what is important. Thanks!

  3. Lexi, I’m so glad you found the bird!

    A boy I have been working with for over two years gets very upset if I bring a Bob the Builder truck in my bag and I don’t have the complete set. He wails and repeats the names of the missing trucks over and over. I’ve tried apologizing, I’ve tried saying I’m upset about it too. I’ve modeled, “Mommy, Scoop is missing! I want Scoop NOW!” for him to imitate, in order to release the feeling. But nothing was working.

    One day I stumbled upon saying, “Scoop’s not here. He went on vacation. I can’t wait until he’s back.” For some reason that helped and we could move on.

    In my office where I have a Woody doll and no Buzz, I say, “I did have a Buzz, but I’m not sure where he is. Maybe he’s in my car. Maybe he’s in my house. Maybe he’s on vacation. I’m going to keep my eyes open, and when I find him I’m going to bring him in, because I want to play with him too. I miss Buzz! (But I think he’s having a really good time on vacation. Maybe he went to Disneyland!)”. Most kids understand the appeal of wanting to go to Disneyland. 🙂

  4. Oh, that one made me cry. I’m so glad you found an angry bird for him. Did he realize it was a replacement? And how happy was he that you “found” it?
    My son who is 4 and autistic has been obsessed with this red circle for the last few weeks. So I mentally keep track of where it is because he is forever putting it down and forgetting where it is. Last week Thursday I was gone for the entire day. I am never gone for the entire day. I left the beloved circle on the kitchen table. When I got home, it was misplaced and of course I had no idea where it was. It was missing for SEVEN DAYS. My son handled it extremely well. He kept asking for it, and after day 3 I told him it was lost. He occasionally got upset, but then started saying “My red circle. It’s lost.” Then last night I found it. Under a pile of books on the couch (and please, no comments about the same pile of books being on the couch for a week). When he got back home from a walk with his dad I gave it to him. And the look on his face was AWESOME! Shock and joy rolled into one. Then he put it on the counter and walked away.

  5. Okay, I’m sitting here at work, struggling to contain the sobs and tears. Dammit, Lexi, I should know better than to read your stuff in public places. I am so, so, so, so glad you found a bird. How’s he doing?

    And BTW, I totally, completely understand too. Both the boys are like this. So much like this.

    1. He’s good. He didn’t know the difference! I may have licked it a few times on the way home and rubbed it on the floor of my car.

      In that order.

      The reverse would have surely killed me.

  6. Well damn, now I have tears in my eyes, too. I’ve been there with my son. And have heard that I’m giving in to him or spoiling him, but that isn’t it at all. It’s this, this post.

  7. my patrents went through this when i was younger an had some magor stimming things if i lost or it got broke they had to fine another onme fast make surer it would work the way i like it an everything i use to stim on shoe laces so no ones shoes were safe lol

  8. This made me break down into tears because my daughter, Anna, has one toy that she cannot function without. It’s Link from Legend of Zelda, which is our favorite video game. She has her adventures with him every day. We have to find him every day, sometimes several times a day, because Anna tends to lose track of him. But if Link is not there to protect her from the bad dreams (that’s how she rationalizes it), she can’t sleep.

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