Carrying on chronologically from a previous post from is not something I have done before. I have however found the experiences in the last 6 weeks so happy, sad, thrilling and stressful. It has been intense.
Our holiday was amazing despite it taking my son some time to settle in to the new environment. The beginning was filled with anxious aeroplane trips, anxious behaviour, severe ADD symptoms, disrupted sleep and poor eating. I am not sure why he settled, but from my experience of previous holidays and stressful times with our son, there are no hard and fast rules on this one. Time, relaxed, engaged focused parents all seem to help with the transition. We were all so happy on holiday and we had the most thrilling time.
We have also learned what he can and cannot tolerate on holiday and yes we all have to compromise. Maybe we do not get to have a beach holiday and we do not get to be spontaneous. We need to choose his environment and exposures carefully. But these compromises are for the better of our family and if our ASD son is having fun, as a broad rule, we all are. These lessons we have learnt about him and our family over the last 4 years are paramount to how we operate as a family. There are no hard and fast rules, sometimes things go wrong and we are not sure why as we think we have covered all the bases. This is part of parenting a child with ASD – things are never the same. However this time things worked well and after a hard year it is such a relief to know the effort we put into the holiday preparations were well worth it. We managed the balance between structure during a very unstructured time.
Now we are faced with a new year, a new school year, new teachers, new therapists, new friends and new schedules. It is a lot of newness for all of us. It is also back to routine, being rushed at times. The new settling process begins which is of course coupled with bad sleep, bad eating, bad moods and temper tantrums. I know this settling in process will be longer and it is not fun and relaxed – mom and dad’s attention and focus has shifted to other areas of life as well. How long will it take him to settle, -it could take a few weeks or up to a term.
We try our best to make the transition easy, by talking about it even if he only listens and does not respond. We surmise as to what he may be feeling and talk about this. We explain how we would feel in the same situation and I think some of it resounds and helps. Sometimes a few days later he will ask some questions about these stories we have spoken about. We try keep a strict routine; we resort to intensive scheduling and make sure he knows what is happening. Once he has settled then we can be less regimented. As much as my son needs this structure and routine and school always helps so much, I am cognisant of the fact that he battles to settle into a new routine. I would have thought due to how routine and structure helps him so much he would find a new routine so much more comforting and approach it with eagerness. However, he is slow to get going into his new routine and like many of us, battles to find his groove after a long holiday. I am not sure if this is due to a fear or anxiety about all that is new or if he is also only battling to settle down like the rest of us. From what I know, most neurotypical children settle into new events easily, and my ASD son does not.
Yet we cannot control anything in life and the start to this year, in spite of all our actions to make it easy, has been challenging. There have been changes I would not normally bring upon my child at this time of year, such as intense diet changes. There have been some medical tests that have been stressful to all, doctors’ appointments, which have clashed with business commitments leaving only one parent present. This has all transpired in the last week, after an amazing holiday. It feels surreal to me so I cannot imagine how my son feels. It has been stressful, even scary, scary for both of us.
My natural instinct is to protect him, yet so is my desire to help him deal with his ASD and minimise how his symptoms affect him. At the moment I constantly feel torn as to what I should and should not be doing. It is too early to know how he is going to manage the changes coming, and the disruption of routine and the added stress of medical procedures. This is uncharted territory for us, we have no learnings in this regard, and once again there are no hard and fast rules.
I am not very good at dealing with things one day at a time. I am a planner and my son likes to have a heads up on what is coming. But I do know that in order to manage his anxiety I can expose him to certain things in advance and others one day at a time. For me, I need to not think too far ahead about how he may or may not behave. I need to deal with him one day at a time. I have to keep my two goals in balance; protect him yet help him to advance. I need to stay practical and when it is too much, say no. I also need to keep my fear in check so it does not overwhelm me. More importantly, I need to elicit the help of others when I am not sure if my fear is talking or if he needs more protecting. It is going to be an intense time and I hope we all manage as best we can.