Here’s a newsflash: I’m a mom.
I rock my 3 year old Mom jeans, while buying my 12 year old the latest fashions. I have three different hair colors (right now) all out of a box I buy at wal-mart, and I cut my own hair, while paying for my tween to have a professional haircut. I have, on numerous occasions, gotten myself all the way to an appointment and then realized my clothes were embarrassing dirty, but I try exceptionally hard to make sure my child makes it to school every day looking at least like a well-dressed homeless person (don’t judge me).
The last time I wore high heels, I was partying because it was 1999.
So it’s not very often that I buy myself something. It is more often that I’m buying something for my kiddo, my husband, or my dog, but when it comes to me, if it costs more than nail polish, I’m out. It’s not that I don’t want to buy myself stuff, I do, I just… don’t.
This might not need to be stated formally — ever — but, for the record, I typically do not buy accessories for myself from a convenience store.
However, we decided that we were going to take a trip that required an 8 hour drive, and somewhere in Alabama, at a Pilot gas station, I fell in love with a purse. And, at $39.99, it was conveniently priced, so I bought it.
Now, it’s not new information that children with Autism do not like change. During this day, we had changed his schedule, made him pack, left off schedule (we are always late), and made him ride in the car for 6 hours (at this point). He was tired, bored, and hungry.
And the purchase of a “new purse for Mom” was, quite literally, the straw that broke the camels’ back.
What ensued was an all out tantrum: with crying, screaming, fussing, and hyperventilating. “You know I don’t like change, Mom, how could you buy a new purse?”
I was astonished. How could I buy a new purse? Seriously?
Since his formal diagnosis in January, we have been learning a lot about Autism. His Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, team is amazing. While the behavior itself is not unfamiliar, the way we are viewing his behavior is very new. We have taken on a crash course in Autism, therapies, treatments, and especially behavior.
Recently my son’s MCBA explained this to me, and it makes complete sense.
Most of the time, we only see about 10% of what is really going on with the child. 90% is under the surface, gurgling inside their little heads, locked inside their thoughts. Oftentimes a “seed” of misinformation has been planted inside their head, and grown into a huge monster, and we just don’t have any clue what they are actually thinking.
In this particular case, travel always induces quite a bit of anxiety within Christian. Packing is usually a huge battle, forcing us to leave the house exhausted and exasperated, and then we have a very long drive. I cannot pretend to imagine what exactly was swimming around inside Christian’s head that made my purchase of a new purse so incredibly devastating for Christian, but I can tell you with certainly that it was devastating.
So, fellow ASD Dads’ and Moms, I share this all with you, because it’s something that I just recently learned, and it makes complete and total sense. When you are in the grocery store and your ASD child is falling apart in the cereal isle, realize that the meltdown is not about the cereal. We may never know all that is swimming around in our children’s heads, but please know that for them it feels heavy, huge, and overwhelming. I have found that keeping this in mind, has helped me to cope with his many meltdowns.
Even the ones that seem absolutely ridiculous, such as the ‘mom’s new purse meltdown’s.