Friday, 6 May 2016

Jack's Birthday- A Much Needed Reminder

Yesterday was my big boy's 9th birthday.  NINE!  It seems impossible, and yet he is creeping up on me height-wise (not the hardest thing to do haha).  Jack has been having so much trouble behaviorally with peers and teachers, we have been so worried about him.  Well, we still are. 

As most autism parents know, particularly Asperger's parents, birthdays are not necessarily something we look forward to.  Other kids birthday parties are hard enough- John recently took Jack to one and was texting me a blow by blow of Jack's struggles- my response?  Yes honey its like riding a bleeping roller coaster while going through the stages of grief all wrapped into one bleep package and tied with a snake.  So as you can imagine, Jack's own birthday celebration felt like walking into a landmine.  Last year he had a hard time at his birthday party- we had lots of kids there, we were at a farm, and he was just overstimulated.  The thing that put him over the top and caused a meltdown was getting a present he REALLY liked.  So what do you do about that?

I decided that in light of all the difficulties he is currently having, I was going to surround him with only people who make him feel safe.  People who, if he had a meltdown, would not be shocked, people who would be supportive.  This consisted of his grandparents, his BCBA, his and Jack's ABA techs, and his two best friends from his old school and their families.  It actually ended up being a pretty crowded house.  Mommy was having some sensory overload issues of her own!

Jack?  He did beautifully.  Thinking about it this morning brings tears to my eyes.  He was able to wait until everyone arrived before having cake with no issues.  He was able to verbalize that he didn't want the birthday song (a long standing trigger for him- the applause more than the song).  And because everyone around him knew him, they weren't surprised and were just fine with basically standing silently while he blew out the candle- and they didn't cheer- which is crucial.  No one asked why the cake was decorated with the koala brothers, an African crested porcupine, a rooster, and a sopwith camel.  It was JACK'S cake, so duh, lol.  He was able to sit and eat cake with all of his presents looming without losing it.  This is a big deal for any kid really, for Jack it was huge.

He was soooooo happy to see his friends.  He was bouncing around everywhere, but made sure to introduce his "best bud" to his mimi (they actually went trick or treating together last October, but whatever).  "Mimi, I need for you to meet my good friend ___"  It was priceless.

Another amazing milestone for him?  Opening gifts in front of others.  Every holiday, he and I go through the do's and don'ts of receiving gifts.  And it has been getting better, he hasn't said "I hate that" in a long time.  But he usually doesn't pause to look at his gifts either- he rips through them, doesn't look to see who they're from, etc.  And yes, I know all kids do this, but it's just more extreme with Jack.  He started out that way, but I was able to talk him into sitting on the couch (for the most part) and allowing me to hand him his gifts.  And with this process he did start to actually see what he was receiving- and he looked at things.  He looked through books, he pointed to things he liked.  He looked at clothes.  There were still a few moments, but over all he did very very well.

He got two "die cast" world war I airplanes.  He did at one point tell someone not to touch or tickle him when he was holding his die casts.  Because doesn't every 9 year old say that?  He was probably having flashbacks to the die cast sopwith camel he received when he was 3- I had to glue it back together no less than 3 times that day- it was NOT a good day.  But in the end, he let his granddad hold one of his planes, they even played "war" for a couple of minutes.

Last night was a CRUCIAL reminder for his dad and me.  When he feels supported and secure, he is the same Jack we have always known and loved- funny, and personable, empathetic and yes, hyper.  He is in there- we just have some things to work through.