Our mountain getaway was fantastic and energizing, but sadly all good things must come to an end. For all of us, it was back to regular life on Wednesday. I think we all had a rough start in the morning, but got back into the swing. Amelia normally has an early release on Wednesdays, but she worked through the afternoon, catching up on some things she had missed the previous two days.
When she was done and Henry had wrapped up his therapy, the kids both hung out in my office while I worked. They were quiet and content watching their tablets, and I was doing my staring-at-screen-thing as well.
Overall, it was a pretty quiet day, but later on things got a little more revved up. Erin had a lesson to teach with a client, and Amelia had her piano lesson, which would normally mean Henry and I drive down and drop her off. But the instructor emailed us and notified us we’d have to do this one via Zoom since she has had a possible COVID exposure and is playing it safe.
Now up to this point, Henry had been quiet as a mouse, but when I got Amelia set up for her lesson, that changed. The piano is in the front play room by the stairs, and Henry started jumping down the stairs, making loud noises and shouting.
He occasionally gets elevated like this and needs the sound and sensory feedback, so we try to direct him to our upstairs playroom that has a trampoline and places for him to run around. But this time it was clearly mixed in with some attention seeking. He wanted to play with his sister and underneath his behavior, I think, was some part of wanting to take her attention away from the lesson.
I tried to reason with him, but after a couple of minutes it became clear he was just going to be too disruptive and Amelia wouldn’t be able to hear her teacher, so I had to take him up to his bedroom. That is one of a couple places in the house where we try to work with Henry and get him to soothe or come down and away from meltdown.
But this time got pretty bad, and he was extremely upset that he couldn’t keep jumping around downstairs, so it leaned heavily toward meltdown. For several minutes, I asked him to use his words, offered up various sensory items to help him calm down, but nothing was working. On top of it, our puppy, Islay, picking up on the tension, had to jump in the action and start barking repeatedly. I can only imagine what the piano teacher thought of this caucauphonous symphony.
So I put the puppy in her kennel and focused back in on Henry. Rubbing his back, I finally got him to settle down and relax. When he was off the ledge, I was able to talk to him about the fact that Amelia needed to focus on her lesson and the noise just wasn’t right in that moment. He nodded in understanding and said he was sorry. I gave him a big hug and told him that mom and I are always here to help, we just want him to try to use his words and tell us what is going on.
Soon after that, he was right as rain and back to playing with Amelia, who was now done with her lesson. He bounces back from those episodes pretty quickly most times, even if I wind up feeling a little rattled for a while.
This one was a little more severe than usual, but that is not to say that we don’t see shades of this kind of thing with some frequency. Henry has gotten so, so much better at expressing himself and working through his emotions in these difficult moments, but they still do overcome him and most days we work through some version of this.
It can be hard. Anyone with a child on the spectrum I’m sure can relate, and heck, I’m sure most parents with kids not on the spectrum can relate. Some of this, like the attention seeking and yelling and jumping, is as much being five years old as it is anything else. But at least the more we work with Henry and understand the hows and whys, the more equipped we are to help him.
Each day is its own adventure. And in the end, the incredibly bright, sweet and loving boy running around our house shines right through the most challenging moments.
Now if we could figure out how to get Islay to lower her bark volume a few decibels, that would really be a win.