October 24, 2016 by Marj Hatzell
I’m the first person to remind folks to presume competence.
The thing is, being nonverbal doesn’t mean nonthinking. This is the problem with “functioning” levels – it assumes that a person with significant communication issues isn’t “high functioning” enough to communicate or a person who is “high functioning” doesn’t need a large amount of support. Both scenarios are problematic. But that’s not what this is about today. This is about a Momma who wants everyone to presume competence in her child and sometimes forgets to do that herself.
The Guy I Live With and I went away to his cousin’s wedding in May. It was only an hour away but the chance to stay overnight in a hotel without children, sleep uninterrupted, and sleep in later in the morning was just too good to pass up. It was worth every stinking penny we paid for the hotel room and the slight hangover and vertigo the next morning.
Ahem. What? We had a good time. And by we I mean me!
Needless to say, the Bugaboo was fine for our overnight helper. In fact, he couldn’t have been better behaved. It was when we returned home that the fun started. From that moment on he has had some serious separation anxiety – doesn’t want me out of his sight. He needs me to sit with him while he plays games on his iPad or watches his favorite movie. He wakes up every single night, without fail, at 2am and searches for me, climbs in bed with me and puts his feet on my feet. If I step outside to get something out of the car, he’s at the door in a panic. If I go to the bathroom…well, you get an idea.
It’s been fun. And by fun I mean stab me in the eyes, it’s less painful problematic.
We gave him social stories ahead of time and prepared him. At least, I feel like we did. But he has some PTSD from past experiences and sometimes it gets triggered and the poor guy has limited expressive communication, see. But he tries. And we try. Over the summer it was better and worse and better again, then worse again, then better…ebb and flow. We seemed to be heading back in the right direction after months of reassurance and working on it with the Bug. Then two weeks ago it suddenly got far worse. It’s almost as though we were starting all over. Well, because we were.
Yesterday it finally dawned on me. About two weeks ago The Guy I Live With and I began preparing for our annual Eat-and-Sleep Weekend. (ZOMG EATING AND SLEEPING AND MORE EAITNG AND SLEEPING!!!!!1!!! ELENTY!) We made reservations, chatted about it a few times, looked at brochures, and talked some more. Typically, we wait until a week or so before the event to prepare the boys, make lists, and watch social stories with Bugaboo. Any earlier than that and they tend to be too anxious. But it’s suddenly clear to us that Bugaboo has heard us talking about it, making preparations, and looking at pamphlets. He knows we are going away. And this is why this weekend he was watching all of his social stories on his iPad, over and over and over. Because they reassure him. They make him feel less anxious. They prepare him and always have a happy ending. When Bugaboo watched the one about “Mommy and Daddy are going away for the weekend” I suddenly was all, “DOH!” Duh, Mom.
I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes, folks.
Everyday a reminder to presume competence in my boy. He’s so much more aware than anyone knows. He sees everything, he hears everything, he watches everything. And he always knows.
Note to self: spelling things also doesn’t work, because he can spell some things now and stuff. If you don’t want him to know something don’t mention it around him, mmkay?