January 21st, 2022
On the last few days in Australia, it was observed and communicated to us that our three children showed signs of Autism. It's not something that's new to us, but at the same time it was a lot to take in on top of the impending pack and move.
My three kids are unbiasedly incredible.
We did not, and do not see this as any impediment to them, in fact quite the opposite. They are each individually brilliant and their difference in things they love and the detail of knowledge they each hold is phenomenal. They are kind, loving, thoughtful kids and that is something that we hold to be most important over everything else in life.
With this information in tow, we set about creating conversations and spaces for our kids to have open and very real conversations with us around their stress, worries, and any emotions that were coming up for them. During a misadventure of a shopping trip pre-Christmas, I saw that Spotlight was having a sale on weighted blankets. Through my work with JCC clients, I knew these were amazing at helping to calm anxiousness and help the kids to regulate how they were feeling. They're a tool in an arsenal of coping strategies I have tried and used for the kids over the years. I am in no way experienced or knowledgeable in Autism, and I actually had previously thought my kids were always really naughty at the shops. This trip was the first where I looked at it from an ASD point of view and it changed everything.
During this particular shopping trip, it started well. We knew we were going to three shops together, we knew what we needed to get and we were going to be in and out as quickly as possible. Spotlight - The Bag Shop - Big W and home. Spotlight was ok until we ran into friends and the trip was slightly longer than planned... Between Spotlight and the bag shop, cracks began to appear... One child was melting down, one was fueling the meltdown fire and dancing around the mayhem, and the third was quiet. FML, I thought, here we go!
I ran into the bag shop to attempt to get Bear his Christmas present but it was too late. The meltdown had well and truly arrived and shit was not going well.
To the outside eye, my kids were the worst behaved humans in the entire world, but to me, I could read each one loud and clear, they were in struggle town. I managed to get number two to stop fueling the meltdown fire and brought number one in to try and recover some of our shopping time.
Could I have walked out and gone home? Absolutely! But it was a tiny window of opportunity for us and we had to try and make it work.
"What five things do you see?" I asked one. What four things, what three things, what two things, what one thing do you see? (one of my favourite focusing tools.) Ok, I had them back with me and I asked if I could hug them... nope! Ok, so what will help you regulate how you feel RIGHT now?
Ok, if you can help me in this store, right now, we will go to the bookshop right after ok?
Phew, one meltdown managed.
There were three more meltdowns on this trip. We got our shopping done, but by the time we got back to the car I was emotionally and physically beaten up. I was exhausted.
I tore open the weighted blanket boxes and threw each one over the kids. It was like magic... two minutes later they were quiet, gentle, snuggly and we headed home. Bear met us when we got in and noticed one had fallen asleep on the way home. They NEVER ever fall asleep in the car and he looked at me in disbelief. I no longer had words to use and just smiled and shrugged my shoulders at him. We got the shopping done and that felt like a massive mountain conquered.
Since moving, the blankets have been everywhere with us, including the plane. We have noticed many behaviors occuring with our kids andn there are days bear and I look at each other and mouth WTF? It doesn't change a single feeling about our children, in fact, it has strengthened our love and understanding of them. They are laser-focused on a single idea some days and it is often a mission to get them to refocus for the day. They repeat actions, words, and phrases throughout the day, sometimes 10000000 times during a single hour. The more we have tried to make life 'normal' the more we notice that their chill is coming back. Whilst there are still angry outbursts for seemingly unknown reasons at face value, (usually connected with not being in control of their situations) we are managing them really well and slowly getting there. Yes, we have talked about getting them all tested, but our priority right now is managing day-to-day activities and supporting them as much as we can.
A brilliant teacher at the kids' school once said, 'It's hard when there are changes we aren't in control of, so we have to be like the water in a river, and just go with it.'
We have used that advice a lot in two weeks.