Sometimes, I'm Not Myself. By My Maybe-Autistic Son. Sort Of.
By Kristi Rieger Campbell
We've had to work hard to help my son Tucker (who has special needs) find his words. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy has been instrumental in helping him, both with attempting words and regulating his behavior. When under stress, it's much more difficult for him to express himself. The following is how I imagine it to be, inside my little boy's head, during the moments when he loses his language completely.
I'm having so much fun! I'm on the playground and see magical connected boxes that will become a house and an airplane at once. I will be invisible, until I laugh. I laugh, and I'm not invisible anymore. Mommy can find me.
Today, I brought my favorite toy ninees to the playground. I'm flying them up up up. So high, so fast.
I love ninees and that's why I carried mine all the way to the playground. Everything is lined up perfectly when my favorites are together -- the playground, my ninees, my best friend, and my mommy. I know they're called airplanes now, but sometimes, when I'm excited, I still say ninees. Sometimes, something happens in my mouth when my brain talks to it, and my words break on their way out.
When on the playground, I fly. Except, I can't fly, because my friend took my airplane and ran away. That's not nice and I have to get my airplane.
He did it again, even after I said "NO" and "stopit," like my teacher and my mom taught me so that I can Be Gentle and Be Nice and Keep My Hands To Self. I did. I kept my hands to myself and I said "Sorry, Friend" after I almost hit him. I didn't hit him. I stopped it.
My friend has a different game in his head than the game that I have in my head. My game, in my head, is better. Why can't he see that my game is more fun and that he's ruining everything? He's ruining everything and he took my plane again.
My body is mad and knows that I need to keep HANDS to self, but I'm mad and running and, why can't my friend see that my game is more fun?
It's. Not. Chase. Time. It'snotchasetimeandI'mgettingMADandMADDER.
My friend is not taking turns and the kid making tooloud baby crying noises is hurting my ears.
Can't he just stop it? I used my words to say STOP IT like they taught me to, but he won't stop. It's all tooloud -too loud- and, why won't he stop?
I don't like the feeling in my body, and I don't like the feeling in my head, but I don't know how to stop it. There is noise in my head and that noise makes my broken words more broken.
It sounds like
It becomes white and red and black in my brain and there's static in my ears...
...and I can't hear and I can't think, and I just want to play with my ninees the way I WANT TO PLAY with them, and this is terrible and I just want to go home. It's in my head and my ears and my eyes, and my mouth is broken and I can't say stopit any more and I can't say anything, and all I know is
That's all I know and...
I stopped it. And, I am sad because I was bad and I didn't keep my handstoself...and I'm crying...and I hear
Yes. (deep breaths)
I didn't mean to hit my friend. Can we still play? I'm sorry. Here. I'll stroke your head to show you I'm sorry. Can we still play? But don't take my ninee. That's notnice.
I still want to play and I want Mommy to know that I want to listen, even when I can't because of the CHSHHHHHHKKCHURHHHHHHHHHHHKURCCHHHH.
Sometimes, I can make it go away. If I tighten my mouth and my shoulders and my face and my eyes and my hair, sometimes it goes away. But sometimes, it comes even when I don't want it to, and my broken mouth is brokener and I can't talk and I want to hit. That's my airplane!! That's when Mommy has to tell me "HANDS!!!"
Then, I am calm. After the crying, and the knowing, I am. Calm.
Mommy sometimes isn't. Other Mommies look at My Mommy like she is bad and she is not bad, she is just breaking through my CHSHHHHHHKKCHURHHHHHHHHHHHKURCCHHHH.
Sometimes, after, Mommy gets sad and I tell her that I want to go home. I am done.
I'm learning. I'm learning to ask for A Break. And to Take Deep Breaths. And that Hitting Friends is Notnice.
And that's when, me, Tu-uck is sometimes not myself. But not on purpose.
I am only four years old, and I am Learning. People teach me. People care.
I care. I just need some help.