In the midst of the pandemic we are all living through, I remembered today that it is still Autism Awareness Month. I have learned a lot about Brandon in the last four weeks. I have also learned a lot about myself.
When the stay at home order was implemented, I was worried about how Brandon would handle this. Last summer was, in a word, awful. There were so many temper tantrums and meltdowns. There was physical aggression and property destruction. There were a lot of tears and frustration from both of us. It was not a fun time.
This stay at home time has been much different. I underestimated Brandon’s ability to understand why we have to stay home. He seems to get it. I underestimated his ability to adapt to our new normal. I underestimated my son and for that, I feel terrible.
Brandon has severe autism or what is now called Level 3 autism. He has many sensory challenges and his verbal communication is limited. He does not understand personal space and he needs help with many hygiene tasks. He can’t be left alone and can not leave the house by himself.
But…even with all of these challenges, he is handling all of this like a champ. I started this time at home thinking about schedules and routines. I tried to dictate the schedule. I attempted to set the routine. I have discovered that I should not have.
Once I relaxed a bit, I started following Brandon’s lead. Brandon is setting the schedule. We watch The Simpsons in the morning. We eat lunch. In the afternoon, we take a walk or he plays Mario Kart. Sometimes, he naps. He listens to his music and searches for animals on his laptop. He helps me with loading and unloading the dishwasher. We work on a puzzle when he wants to, not when I think he should. He wants no part of helping with laundry. And that is okay.
What I have learned in the last four weeks is that my son with level 3 autism is no longer a child. He is a 21 year old young man who just wants some autonomy in his choices. I have learned that he is capable of setting a routine that works for him.
I do, occasionally, have to alter the schedule. He and I do not live in our house by ourselves. There are other people here and they have routines and wants and needs. Brandon is learning to respect that I can not always give him my undivided attention. His brothers and my husband sometimes need me to do something for and with them.
There are still meltdowns. But three meltdowns in four weeks is pretty darn good. There are some temper tantrums, but they have been few and far between. I have had moments I am not proud of, but I am starting to use those moments as learning experiences. This is hard sometimes, but it is necessary for all of us.
I woke up late this morning. I looked at my phone and it was 9:45am. My bedroom door was open and I saw Brandon’s door was open. What went through my head was “oh crap, what is he doing???” I came out of my room and saw Brandon sitting in the recliner and my oldest son sitting on the couch. I thanked Alex profusely for hanging out with Brandon. Alex’s response was “no problem, mom, you needed some sleep.”
My heart melted a bit and it was at that moment I knew we are all truly in this together.
Stay well friends and keep washing those hands.