An Autism Diary

A day in the life of David Hartley

The Other Side of Our Trip

Yep.  Two posts tonight.  Our Wal-mart trip had too much to share to be put into just one post and since the story was easily separated into two parts, I figured I could make them two posts.

As much as the harnesses I mentioned before helped lesson the problems we faced when going to to the store today, the Autism was still there of course and it did still give David some trouble.  I was so proud of him though.  David was truly a brave and strong little trooper today.  I think an added bonus of the harnesses is that they help give David a sense of a constant hug or something because he does seem to have an easier time staying calmer when he’s wearing his.

The whole trip could be a valid story worth being told here but I want to focus on a specific moment towards the end of our time in the store.  We were trudging back and forth trying to find the last item on our list that seemed to be winning a game of hide and seek with us.  Joshua, having already worn out and not being able to control himself (even with the help of the harness) on the outside of the basket, was now sitting in the child seat at the front.  David was wandering all around us with the lead to his harness securely connecting him to the basket to ensure he couldn’t get away.  There were a few times when I was trying to focus on something I was trying to pick out from the shelves, that I would see the basket slowly starting to curve away and roll off, but a quick jump and grab on my part usually was enough to solve that situation though.  It can be nice at times having a heavy, grocery laiden basket attached to your little prone to bolt child.  It provides one with lots of warning and reaction time. 😉

Eventually though, the crowds, smells, noise, lights, etc (in other words the world that is Wal-mart)(or any major store for that matter) started to get to him and tear him down.  I could see the tension rising and was doing my best to make our trip as quick as possible.  About the time though that David usually would have started screaming, making his loudest screach/attempted “whistle” stim (finger tips in mouth and blowing hard past them), and proceeded to either panic or start beating on himself (and anyone who got too close) with unmerciful strength, he instead got a blank stare to his face and stopped dead in his tracks.

Worried that something bad was happening (we’ve had a few scares that make us watch for possible seizures now) or that he may be starting to slip into either another regression or an overload similar to the story I shared here, I immediately stopped everything and got down in front of him to attempt to get his attention.  When I did that though I could hear him silently stimming and could see an ever so slight shifting of movement.  I called his name and he started to rock slightly, his soft stimming getting a bit faster.  Concerned and knowing my window was small, if I even had one left, I gently cupped his face in my hands and asked him to focus.  He didn’t react badly to my touch so I held him like that until he was able to look at me.

I caught his attention briefly and tried to ask him what was wrong but he seemed to not be taking anything I said in so I started signing to him.  It took a minute, and a couple of retreats back into his own world, but David eventually responded to my signs with slight nods or small shakes of his head in order to tell me yes or no.  Using that small bit of communication I could get out of him, I was able to figure out what he needed me to do in order to help him and was able to pull him gently back into my world.  Hugging him tightly (deep pressure/proprioception input) and carressing his hair (his most calming bed time ritual) to help calm him down helped bring him back the most and he was soon smiling again and even talking a little.  Needless to say, I made sure to track down a worker after that to help us get that stubbornly elusive item so we could get out of there and go home.

I was so proud of David at that moment.  He was struggling so much, but he stood strong with a courage that wouldn’t shake off and tried to hang in there.  He even remembered some of his coping skills he’s been learning and used them accordingly.  This is a huge deal for my precious little guy and I just had to share this story because of that.  : )

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