Following on from my ‘lack of empathy’ thoughts in a previous blog, there’s this other Aspergers trait I’d once blanket-accepted too, which has become less and less of an issue for us;
That CHANGE is always going to be a MEGA TOUGH mountain for Caleb.
But no. Not really. You see, I now realise change wasn’t the problem, my approach was, and the fear of the challenge …
Yes! Caleb loves, loves, LOVES his routines. And there’s comfort in the detail and order!
He will: Arrange clean clothes for the day ahead on the same spot of the bedroom floor, ready to dress in the same, given order. He will not put on his socks before his t-shirt! He prefers not to dress before breakfast. The bedroom curtains are only opened once all his morning tasks are complete. AND he’s actually disappointed with himself if he sleeps in past the usual time of rising. To lie-in? Yuk!
ANY house rule we have for the morning, needs to be fully justified or at least Caleb needs to be CERTAIN I think it’s absolutely necessary, before it will become part of his routine. On the spot – ‘BECAUSE I’M THE MUM AND I SAY SO!!’ – Not Cool, Mum!
And yet, Caleb also LOVES to experiment with different food combinations from the cupboard for breakfast, wear a new top, listen to a new CD, break apart and create a new Lego model, try a new game on his tablet… a brand of toy, remarketed, brings fresh interest; a new model of car to study – such ‘upgrades’ are exciting news!
For Caleb, new experiences and surroundings, however, are approached much more cautiously. I wonder though, is it actually the ‘change’ itself, or is the anxiety more about things being ‘unexpected’ ?
Caleb may be much more alert than others to a new environment, and safety-conscious, but so long as his senses are not overloaded (eg. A funfair), then the years have lead him to enjoy and invite a range of new activities, and an acceptance and tolerance of new routines and surroundings, despite any initial discomfort.
Caleb surprised us all by giving gliding a go, aged 10! Totally his choice. ‘No way!’ was his first thought. But by the time the day came to go and watch, he ended up asking to do it!
- He mastered heights at Go-Ape, even the zip wire!
- Go-karting (bit tough, the vibrations!)
- Laser quest, in the dark!
- A trip enclosed and suspended on the London Eye
- The crowds of Wembley stadium, to watch England play.
All things we’d have avoided like the plague, once upon a time!
When Caleb was younger he found shopping centres hard. He has never had a big ‘meltdown’, but he’d TOO-cheerfully ask “Shall we go now Mum? Shall we go home?” every five seconds. No, we didn’t stop going! And today there’s no problem at all. No fear.
I also remember the worry over a Premier Inn bed, the first time we visited one. We made the decision then, to keep using the same hotel so that the adventure might be new – the destination – but Caleb now finds Premiere Inn and the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet a second home. We’ve learnt that having things that are familiar in the mix is key, family relationships constant, and time to process the unexpected… Now Caleb is happy at any hotel, because he makes the connection. This is family time.
I once wanted to protect Caleb from difficult feelings. But now he is learning to name them and to manage them. Change is inevitable. That’s life. New experiences can make life richer, friendships broaden , perspectives widen, and new interests and skills can begin and develop .
Practically we try to:
- Let him know details in advance of the event/change
- Listen to any outpouring of negatives without shutting the conversation down (patience!)
- Allow as many of the smaller routines and relationships to stay constant
- Keep calm and be upbeat without ‘bullying’ him along – acknowledge his feelings and when it’s tough… Caleb has picked up on this script and now uses it on me, when I’m stressing …“I understand your feelings Mum, but…” Haha! I’m being coached!
So. He is going to be ok.
Until recently Caleb had decided he would never travel out of the uk when an adult. But then he watched blog Supercars of London, and the annual road trip taken around Europe …. And decided he will drive baby Matilda on similar trips around the world when she’s older!
I don’t need to worry.
This week Caleb began at a new school. His new uniform is itchy and the tie restrictive, the teacher suggested he read for 15 minutes, 3 times a week, instead of 10 pages each time, like at his old school… And he’s not allowed to loop his ‘y’s in handwriting any more!
But do you know what? He’s happy. He feels accepted. Every child in his class is ‘a friend’ …
And he’s positive. Despite the challenges of change. It’s week one and he’s already throwing himself into it. Because he has secure relationships. And a history of new life experiences. And self awareness of what he finds tough, what he can control, and what he can’t. And he accepts it that way and moves forward, through the challenge.
So proud of you CALEB. Of each of our children. YOU are VERY lucky to have such loving siblings. They play a big part in the normality within the new.
Everything is going to be A-okay. YOU’LL SEE