When you have a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, you tend to get overly excited over little things that other parents take for granted. Yesterday was a beautiful example of the kind of thing I’m talking about. Jackson, our kindergartener, went to a classmate’s birthday BOWLING party. Parents of Aspies, I know you see where I’m going with this.
There were three major challenges Jackson had to overcome in order to enjoy himself (and not cause a scene) at this party. The first and most obvious thing being the noise level. He has very sensitive ears and what seems to us to just be a loud noise can actually be painful for him. (There’s a great irony in this too since he is known to be very loud himself.)
The second challenge: the shoes. Jackson is VERY particular about his shoes. Every time he needs a new pair, my husband and I both cringe because we know there will be an adjustment period involving lots of crying, complaining, and basic unpleasantness over the shoes. But once he adjusts to them, he’s married to them. Forget having him wear something different. Anytime, for any occasion, it will always be the same pair. Currently, he’s sporting a pair of black Skechers that thankfully, are decent enough to wear on Sundays.
Lastly, the challenge of facing a challenge. Jackson doesn’t like it when he can’t automatically or immediately do something well. And by don’t like it, I mean he usually has a meltdown or at least a little fit and tears are often involved.
Even considering the stress he had to endure at this party, he was a real champ (and he had fun)! I tried to prepare him as much as possible with what to expect at the party…particularly with the shoes. The last thing I wanted was to have all eyes on us when he began to cry as if his feet were on fire. Thankfully, that didn’t happen although he still complained at first that the shoes were too tight and immediately started to take them off. But a little loosening of the velcro and he was satisfied. Yay! Victory number one!!!
Then, when it came time for Jackson to bowl, he did what many kids his age do and put the ball down and pushed it. I half expected it to come to a stand still in the middle of the lane. But amazingly enough, it made it every time. And every time that ball rolled down the lane I prayed fervently that it would hit something. “Please, Lord, let him hit a pin. Please just let him hit atleast one.” I honestly don’t recall him NOT hitting something on a turn. But, alas, Jackson was not satisfied with just hitting one or two and threw himself down a time or two to show his disappointment. Given that he rolled the ball 20 times in one game, I’m not making a huge deal over “a time or two”. Other than that, he did great. Yay! Victory number two!!!
I noticed about a quarter through the game that every time after his turn, he’d run off to the corner where the vending machines were and stay there (or somewhere near the back) until it was his turn again. At first, I thought I should make him come sit with everyone else but then it occurred to me that it was probably the noise that was keeping him away. I was really proud of him for finding a way to cope with it and enduring (and enjoying) bowling when his turn “rolled” around. 😉 Yay for victory number three!!!
Most parents don’t have to worry too much about these kinds of things. Most boys seem to PREFER loud noises. Not my Jackson (at least not of his own making). And he’s not alone. Many children on the autism spectrum avoid crowds and are bothered by loud sounds. Many struggle with the same sorts of things Jackson does. This is why we rejoice in the little victories. This is why it’s such a major accomplishment to wear bowling shoes without pitching a fit or to miss a few pins without having a meltdown. This is also why it’s such an accomplishment to initiate a conversation with a friend by just saying hello. Yes, I was very proud of him and his behavior. He’s a real trooper!
P.S.- As an aside, something happened during the party that was so funny to me. While Jackson ate his cake and ice cream, I could tell he was getting thirsty. The trouble was the only drinks were sodas and he doesn’t like them because “they burn”. He never once complained, though. I just sat back and watched him bring his cup to his lips and take just the absolute tiniest little sip. Then a few seconds later he’d do the same thing again. It was another proud moment for me because I knew it wasn’t what he wanted but he never made a fuss. He just learned to cope. 🙂