Inflexibility and meltdowns

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 8:34 PM | comments: 0

It's certainly not a game that you keep score in, but all things considered, we've been somewhat lucky with Simon's ASD symptoms. A lot of the struggles that you read about, with lack of eye contact and speech, a lack of articulated emotion, etc., are not his issues. He's very social, if gravitating toward adults, and polite almost to a fault. He's pretty good at queueing too, which is a good thing given his already intense love for familiar roller coasters.

But in the past few weeks, Simon has exhibited a great deal of inflexibility over things that don't seem that important. It's the behavior that falls into the stereotypical repetitive and mundane bucket. To the casual observer, he seems like he gets upset just because he isn't getting his way. In reality, the issue is that his brain can't reconcile the variation on established routine and protocol. The reaction is intense.

On Sunday, I took Simon to Magic Kingdom while Diana was working, because one of my old friends from a previous job was in town with his family. The theme of issues at the park is that he needs to be in "number 1" for whatever we're getting on. It starts with the monorail: He needs to sit in the first car. Similarly, he wants to sit in the front seat of rides that have several rows. A lot of parks are not flexible, in the interest of capacity, but unfortunately Disney wants to blow pixie dust up your you-know-what at every turn. Simon is bold enough to just ask for a front seat, and they give it to him before we can ask them not to.

Sometimes things go so quickly that there isn't time for him to even react. We were rushed into the 4th row of a Barnstormer train, for example, so he never had a chance to freak out. On the other hand, he got to a ride op for Pooh and they put us in the front at his request. At the end of our three-hour tour, however, things fell apart when we went back to the parking tram. We refuse to sit in the front because of the noise in close proximity to the tractor. We often sit in the back so he can talk to the spieler though, and he enjoys that. When we got back to the transportation center, there was a nearly full tram about ready to leave, so we jumped into the middle just in time.

The meltdown came fast and without any possibility of consolation. All I could really do is offer comfort, but he wasn't having it. You can't yell at him because in his mind, he isn't doing anything wrong. The only thing he understands is that a routine or convention isn't being followed, and he doesn't know what to do with that.

This isn't the first time I've dealt with this kind of situation, and Simon's therapist says that essentially he needs to work though it so he can "practice" flexibility away from the familiar pattern.

Diana had a similar episode with him today. This one isn't new either. Because Simon essentially goes to school twice, she has to take him out for a bit for lunch. One of the places in the rotation is a Subway, where he has his sights on a specific table. Today that table was occupied, and it was a throw-down meltdown scene to behold. Similarly, she did her best to help him but be firm, to give him the "practice" to adjust. These situations are emotionally exhausting for us as well, because no one likes to see their kid suffer like that.

Oh, and Diana had her first encounter with an asshole third party observer. A woman in the Subway told her that if it was her she'd hit Simon or some such nonsense. I can't fucking stand people like that. They have no context about the situation, and it's none of their business.


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