I know that all parents of children with Autism go through this from time to time – knowing that you’re going to be taking your child into a scenario where a meltdown is all but guaranteed.
Yesterday was the baby’s first birthday party (and the NFL Wild Card playoffs to boot, with our local team playing in the early game). Following that, we were going to be going to visit with some of the wife’s college friends, who we’ve not seen in a while.
The Monster’s not usually bad about dealing with crowds or having people in the house, or with going out to dinner. However, this was talking about thirty-plus people in our house (including over a dozen kids), all kinds of chaos, then bundling him into the car for an hour, having dinner out, and then the hour car ride back home.
It’s a lot different when we’re with other children like him, rather than when we’re only surrounded by NT children. Four year olds are rambunctious by nature, and putting a dozen of them into the mix (our friends mostly have kids the Monster’s age, rather than the baby’s) just makes for a disaster. For the most part, the Monster did just fine, though I’ll admit that neither of us were monitoring him closely enough to be sure through the whole afternoon – he seems to have made it through relatively unscathed with all of these kids playing with his toys. By the time the party was winding down, though, he was clinging to his iPad, insisting on Sesame Street when we were urgently trying to bundle him into his coat so we could go to the car.
The car ride calmed him down. And for most of dinner, in fact, he was perfectly well behaved… well, save for my letting him play way too much with the electronic candles that were on the tables. I figured it was a small price to pay. By the end of dinner, though, it was clear that he was absolutely on the edge of a major melt-down, and we managed to make our farewells without having an outburst in the restaurant.
I suppose it’s all relative, though, and I’m used to the bemused looks I get from our friends and strangers when I’m apologizing that his mildly ‘bad’ behavior is a meltdown. We know our child at this point – I’ve gotten good, after this long, at spotting when he’s in those states where it’s just better to try to make our exit and not have him going nuclear in public. And the fact is, compared to most of the kids his age, he’s lovely in public. He sits quietly (if a bit fidgety), he’ll eat what’s on his plate within certain bounds, and he’s very easily made to smile and socialize somewhat. But they also don’t see the kicking, screaming, flailing child he can turn into when he’s pushed past his own abilities to cope with the situation. And, personally, I prefer to deal with my angelic little Monster rather than the hate-beast he can turn into when we get to that point…
Of course, it continued this morning, but that’s for another blog post…