Monday, March 21, 2011


When people who aren't familiar with autism ask me what makes Curt autistic, I tend to give them  concrete examples instead of going into medical physiology that has yet to be substantiated anyway.

I'll say, "Well he can only wear pants with elastic waistbands. He doesn't like shirts with buttons. He has to know exactly what time it is and how long every task will take...." and so on and so forth. I am INEVITABLY met with the response, "Oh, well I change into my sweatpants and sweatshirt the minute I get home from work too! I don't blame the little guy," or something to that effect.

Then I explain the DIFFERENCE is that he CAN. NOT. FUNCTION. if he's wearing pants with a zipper and a snap or button.

Case in point. This morning just before 8 a.m. I'm at work thoroughly involved in a writing project. An email pops up. From Curt's teacher.

"Curt accidentally wore a pair of shorts with a zipper today. Can you please bring him some  new ones so he can concentrate?"

Well of course I could. I flew home (thank you, Mr. Policeman, for not noticing I was flying down Old Bullard Road), grabbed the shorts with an elastic waistband and zipped up to the school. The office called Curt down and when he burst through the double security doors, his beautiful brown eyes were red and swollen from his meltdown. 

In the great scheme of things, you might be thinking to yourself "Well he has to get over it." And he does. I've been lucky so far that Wal-mart Faded Glory brand still makes elasticized waistbands in size 8-10. But our luck isn't going to last forever.

But to a person with autism, something minor as wearing shorts with a zipper can be such a sensory cyclone that they cannot function otherwise.

So today's hiccup was really not a big deal. Problem, meltdown, problem solved. If nothing else, Curt is a study in resiliency. He tends to get over things much more quickly than I do. 

My blood pressure STILL rises when I remember something that happened during Curt's first year of school. When Curt was 3 years old, we had to make the gut-wrenching decision to send him to school full time. A regular school day. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. I was NOT a stay-at-home mom to send my child off to an elementary school at age 3. He was a BABY.  Not even in any kind of mother's day out program. But early intervention is critical for people with autism and the Texas Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities is a full-day language immersion, social skills, scheduled experience that I now credit with part of the reason he's doing so well now. Nevertheless, it was horrible to send my non-verbal BABY off to school. His backpack was larger than he was. 

That was hard enough.
But I arrived to pick him up one day at the prescribed time of 3 p.m. and found him outside the school building, curled into a fetal position with an adult I'd NEVER SEEN BEFORE.  

Alarmed and distressed, I questioned the woman (an aide spared from another classroom) as to what had happened and why he was in this state.
They happened to be testing the fire alarms at school that day and the incessant QUACK of the signal sent Curt so over the edge that he had to withdraw completely into himself.  And instead of calling me to come get him, this particular teacher made the decision to leave him in the environment that was so upsetting to him. 

So every time I'm put back in that similar situation, I get very stressed out. 

While sometimes the "exposure therapy" approach IS appropriate, when his third grade teacher emails and asks me to bring shorts and I know I can put him back into a place of comfort, I am more than willing to do so. 

Problem. Meltdown. Problem solved. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow Amy, that brought tears to my eyes. Curt is lucky to have such a great mom.