We have come a long way since Nathan used to hit himself with both hands and scream at the top of his lungs when we would go out in public. I learned to make shorter grocery lists, top off the car's gas tank every few days and put myself in "time out" every chance I got! That may sound weird to someone who doesn't know about autism and behavior but, it was what helped me survive the earlier days just before, during and right after Nathan was diagnosed with autism. I had to learn to make the necessary adjustments to help my child cope with his surroundings. It never worked the same way twice. I had to be creative in making him think what I was doing was his idea.
To remind him that we are all human, I will give him updates on my patience levels. This is probably not what you expected to hear but, it has worked for me. All of my kids like to play those handheld games by Nintendo that tell you how much battery you have left before you have to plug it in to re-charge them. Well, I decided to use that same concept but, with my patience. To start the day out I would always wear something with at least four pockets such as jeans or slacks and a scrub top. Each pocket equaled one warning or one quarter of my patience. Imagine what kind of looks I received when I would tell my son "Oh, that pocket is empty! Let me check to see if we'll be able to earn that trip to McDonald's. Whew! I think that we're okay...we still have three pockets of patience!" Most people would look at me as if I were crazy and what they didn't know was that I used this technique so that I wouldn't end up losing my sanity.
When I was a lot younger, I used to care what people thought or said about me. I have gotten past that with Nathan's help. If it wasn't for him, I would probably still be the uptight, miss goody two shoes that I used to be. Having a child with autism will turn your world upside down and inside out like you would have never imagined. Helping the world to adjust to Nathan's invisible disability has opened so many doors for me to talk to others about autism. Just because you can't see my son's "autism" doesn't mean that it's not there! Nathan is a very lucky young man to have such wonderful teachers and classmates that give him the "patience" that he needs. He knows how it feels to have someone make fun of him, realize that he was talked into doing something he knows is wrong or get frustrated when his schedule has been changed. It has been quite a learning experience for all of us.
Today, I picked up Nathan and his brother before school let out. The poor things have my seasonal allergies! They have been coughing, sneezing and then started complaining of their ears bothering them. When I made an appointment for them to see the doctor, I convinced myself that I should get checked out, as well. I have had a bad cough for more than a week and don't have much of a voice. I will take the children to the doctor when what they are suffering from is not fixed by my normal over-the-counter remedies but, when it comes to me, I usually just ignore whatever is ailing me. I realized that I was not providing a good example for my children. They need to believe and trust that doctors will make you feel better.
While we were waiting in the exam room, both of the boys were getting restless which was in turn causing me to run out of patience. I immediately asked them to calm down and then reminded them that if they still wanted an Icee drink that they would have to straighten up. It worked for about two seconds and they were bouncing off the walls again. I was trying to remind myself that "boys will be boys" and "it's hard for kids to sit still at their age" but, they kept getting louder than they were before. I had no where to escape to place myself in time out and decided to use my pockets. I asked Nathan and his brother to look at my left front pocket as I pulled it inside out. They started to look at me as if I had lost my mind. I then started checking my right front pocket and casually stated that I hoped it wasn't empty. It wasn't until I already had the second pocket turned inside out that I saw Nathan's wheels move into overdrive. He had associated the old game we used to play back into existence and told his brother that if they were good they would get the Icee drink they wanted! The doctor even complimented them on their behavior and I reminded them that "caught being good" is something that we all want to be recognized for!