Our journey in the Autism Spectrum

Posts tagged ‘Valentine’s’

A Little Valentine Moulage?

[Ed. Note: Not the photo or story one might expect around Valentine’s Day but rarely does anything happen “as expected” around here anyway. And this actually happened Monday so not technically ON Valentine’s Day but, well, you get the idea…]

Monday night hubby got the little ones to bed and we were set to watch the Westminster Dog Show that we had DVR’d. Not long into the hound group, Henry was up and out of bed heading downstairs. (This is why we DVR any program we actually want to watch!)

“I can’t get to sleep!”

“Henry, you haven’t even had a chance to fall asleep!”

“Please. I can’t sleep. I had a bad dream.” (Interesting because, again, he wasn’t asleep to even dream at all!).

“Okay, dude, you’re going back to bed. I will come up and tuck you in.”

I looked over at my husband with the remote in his hand already hitting the pause button with a sigh. Up the steps I went.

We got to the bedroom and I was getting Henry settled in. Again. I asked him what was bothering him.

“I keep thinking about Molly and *L’s* arms. My brain keeps seeing it and I can’t get it out of my mind.”

Flashback to earlier that Monday afternoon:

I’m downstairs at my computer trying to work. The little ones are upstairs in my bedroom watching something on TV. Big Sis, Molly, and her friend L came running into the house all giggly and silly (you know, typical 14-year old girl stuff…well, typical for these two anyway). I hear Henry and Lucy shrieks and then some chaos ensued and all 4 kids came running down the stairs shouting and laughing.

To show me this:

Apparently L was practicing special effects make-up  on both her own arm and Molly’s. That girl has SKILLS! Even up-close and personal it was pretty realistic! Well, as realistic as some kind of Zombie-type flesh wound can be. The two little ones had been repeatedly reassured that it was not real and they were laughing, although Henry wouldn’t touch it. I admit, I was hesitant myself!

So, back to later that evening and getting Henry back into bed. Still talking about the girls’ arms.

“You know that it wasn’t real, Henry.”

“Oh yeah, I know but still, I’m 6 years old. I’m a 6-year-old boy, Mom.”

“Yes, I know, but what does that have to do with why you can’t get to sleep?” (I really should know better than to ask at this point.)

“Because, Mom, all 6-year old boys have bad dreams. It’s what we all do. And I’m going to have a bad dream about L’s and Molly’s arms.”

“ALL 6-year old boys have bad dreams? All of the time?”

“Yeah, ALL of the time!” he says with an exasperated eye-roll.

“Henry, you will not have a bad dream. Think about good thoughts. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Think about what little goodies you might get!”

“Aggghhhh!  Mom. I’m a 6-year old boy. All 6-year old boys have bad dreams. It’s what we do. Aaaannnnnddd, I can’t get their arms out of my mind! It’s stuck in my brain! SOOOOOO, I’m going to have a bad dream.”

He’s ticking these facts off with his fingers to really make his point.

“Even though you know it wasn’t real?” I ask.

“Yes, Mom. Even though I know it wasn’t real.” he says matter-of-factly.

Okay, changing tack here. It’s getting late, I really want to be finished watching the dog show before 11pm, and I’m tired.

“Here’s the deal, Hen, it’s late. You have school tomorrow. You’re tired, Mommy is tired. You are just going to have to unstick that picture from your brain and go to sleep. You are NOT going to have a bad dream because you know it’s not real. Got it?” I realize at this point I must sound very insensitive but hey, I’m tired, I’m getting desperate. And I know sometimes it actually works…

“But mom…” He sees my eyebrows raised. “Okay, I’ll try. Happy thoughts.”

“Great! Good job! I love you, little dude!”

“I love you too mom.”

He went to sleep, I got to watch the dog show. No moulage nightmares.

Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, the kids were still talking about it and how cool and real it looked! When Molly got home from school they were asking to see it again! Molly had to show them that it had all been washed off. Oy!

It was really cool. Next time I just ask that the girls give me a heads-up what their coming in looking like! And I’m thinking I want to hire L to do some cool make-up for me next Halloween…or Valentine’s Day.

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Our Funny Valentine

 

“C’mere, teddy bear.”

When my son says this to me I know he wants to cuddle and give me a hug. He leans toward my cheek and I am not sure if I am going to get a kiss or a raspberry; with either one we both giggle. Henry has an infectious smile and a twinkle in his eyes that only mean trouble!

He knows funny. He teases with the purpose of getting a laugh…or getting away with something. Sometimes it’s both.  Sometimes he tries to be sly about it, keeping a blank face, his mouth set in a straight line. But he just can’t control the tiny twitch that reveals his dimple and then he’ll grin and when he can’t hold that back he will give you a full, gorgeous smile.

Henry  tells us he loves us, spontaneously, not just as a rote response to us saying it first. But he didn’t for a long time. He couldn’t identify emotions in pictures and certainly not in others or in himself. He has always been one to cuddle but on his terms, of course. Expressing his experiences and emotions are  difficult concepts.

I wondered (and worried) whether the concept of feelings, emotions, would be something that Henry would ever understand. Sure, he was slowly learning the appropriate words. But would he, could he learn to really connect on the emotional level with others.

“I love you, Henry.”

“I love you, too.” No real inflection of tone, no sense of feeling behind his words. Just memorization. I learned to accept that and I would take those words into my heart and there I would place  feeling into them for him. For me.

Throughout our days I  try to show examples of happy faces and sad faces, angry faces, faces that are surprised.  I point out these emotions  in his favorite TV shows or movie, on my face, on his sister’s face. I  try to get him to copy my expression. I encourage him to point to a happy face or sad face.

I have been met with a blank expression. Many more times Henry would just walk away or start talking about something else.  There was no interested or even a hint of comprehension of anything outside of himself.

And then one day we were coming home from school and from the back seat I hear Henry say to Lucy, “How was your day, Lucy?” I held my breath wondering if he would just continue to talk through it about whatever he was seeing in his mind but there was quiet. He was waiting for Lucy to answer!

Soon after that, one evening Lucy was crying about something at bedtime and Henry jumped out of his bed to give her a toy. Suddenly he was dancing around making silly faces.  He was trying to cheer her up! Is it possible that he was slowly “getting it”?

Another evening, big sister Molly was in tears over some homework. Her voice was raising in frustration and Henry asked,”Molly, what’s wrong? Why are you sad?”

Molly being too upset to talk, I answered for her, “Molly is sad because she is frustrated about her homework.”

Henry turned back to Molly and said, “Molly you should check your options map.” And then he proceeded to list all of the “green-light” options for what you can do when you are mad or frustrated or upset. And still then continued on to SHOW her how to take deep breaths and count! (Score a perfect 10  for ABA!) He was making the connection between feelings and actions.

Some may say that Henry is just learning to memorize the correct response and not really feeling what he is saying.  I think that is part of learning about emotions.  He is learning to put words with feelings  AND feeling into his words. When he spontaneously smiles at me and says, “I love you, Mom.” His tone changes. I no longer have to put my own feelings onto his words.  He is doing that all on his own! We are having to prompt him less and less about saying thank you when he receives a gift and when he does say “thank you” there is a tone of sincerity.

Henry does have feelings and he is beginning to understand those feelings. I don’t wonder about him getting this concept any longer. He sometimes has trouble expressing them but I do believe this will come in time. You can see he is trying. He will learn to do this in his  own funny, quirky way which may be very different from most of us but I think that is okay. That’s how he rolls.

It may seem funny or odd to have to practice emotions and appropriate emotional responses. For us, our daily lives are filled with practice. Everything is practice.  Feelings and emotions are such difficult concepts for most people on the spectrum. Deficits in this particular area is one of the criteria for being on the autism spectrum to begin with!  So, we’ll just keep practicing.

Last night as Grant and I were tucking the two little ones in their beds I heard Henry say to Grant, “Happy Valentine’s day, Dad.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Henry. I love you.”

“I love you too, Dad. Now you have to tell mommy happy Valentine’s day and give her a hug.”

Grant responded as I watched from Lucy’s bed and wondered how this was going to play out. “Okay, I will”. Grant turned to say goodnight to Lucy and Henry said, “No, now Dad. You have to tell her now and give her a hug and kiss.” He was watching us for practice I guess? Silly little dude.

So, Grant and I turned toward each other and wished each other a happy Valentine’s day. We said “I love you” to each other as we hugged.

“Uh, Dad, you gotta give her a kiss, too!” So we kissed. Both kids were giggling and we proceeded to switch sides of the room so Grant was saying goodnight to Lucy and I went to say goodnight to Henry. He threw his arms around my neck and said,” Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, little dude. You are our funny Valentine and we love you.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

There is no better Valentine’s gift than that!

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