My little buddy is 4 years old. We knew from very early on that he was made a bit differently. A few months ago he was diagnosed with autism. He also has brain damage as a result of a birth injury. I am by no means an expert on brain injuries or autism. I am simply sharing what I have digested over the past few months. My son has shown these behaviors for a long time, I didn't realize that they were signs of autism.
- Safe Place: I never understood why my son liked the closet so much. Every time he would get in trouble or have an argument, he would hide in the closet. Sometimes I have gone in to wake him up for school and he was sleeping in the closet. Kids are weird, I I just thought that he liked the closet. Kids with autism need a safe place where they can decompress. My kid likes the closet. We are currently working to set up the closet as his safe place, AKA a decompression zone.
- Rage: I have three kids. I know what a tantrum is. I know what a fit is. After having lived with my son for the past four years, I know what rage is. The anger that he can display in an instant can only be explained if you have ever seen The Hulk. He is Bruce Banner one minute, and then in a blink of the eye he has transformed into The Hulk. When Hulk gets angry, no one or thing is safe. It takes the phrase "Hulk Smash" to a whole new level.
- Rocking and Humming: I like to hum and sing as much as the next guy. I never really payed any attention to when my son hummed. He hums when he goes to the bathroom, when things get too loud, when he is trying to fall asleep, when he gets angry, and when he is thinking. He also likes to rock himself. I had no idea that it was a mechanism to soothe himself.
- Repetitive Questions: My little man is 4 years old. Repetitive questions are par for the course with a toddler. The questions never end, even once you have given an answer. Something as simple as "Can we go now?" can lead to meltdown that can rival Chernobyl.
- OCD Tendencies: I myself am a type-A person who loves lists and routine. If you were to ask my old colleagues about where I sit at lunch, they would all probably laugh. I like to sit in the same spot every day, routine is safe and comfortable. My son however needs to have routine or life simply stops. If he asks for a cup of milk, and I place it on the table the wrong way, he will need to move it until he deems is correct. Sometimes it ends with the milk being thrown across the room. Even after the milk has been rocket launched, we need to start the routine all over again until the milk has found its proper home.
Autism is something my child has, not who my child is. It is difficult to deal with the episodes and anger each day. I am not going to lie, it is far from easy. To be frank, having a diagnosis hasn't made me feel any better. I thought that putting a label on his issue would give me some peace, but it hasn't happened just yet. Time, talking, learning, listening, and letting go are hopefully the next phase of this journey.