Blog #109~ A Good Day with Autism
This week I am sharing a chapter of the memoir which I’ve been working on about raising Nick. This incident happened back in 2009. He is now 20 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. This is for all the warrior moms and dads out their battling it out on the front lines……….
A Good Day with Autism
(A chapter from the memoir about raising Nick, by Teresa Unnerstall)
“Autism Speaks. It also flaps, tics, hums, snorts, grunts, yells and sings.” My friend, Amy posted this on Facebook recently. I clicked the “like button” and chime in my two cents. “And it also hits, kicks, pinches, drops, rocks and bops.” Today was no exception. My son hit most of the marks. Nick is seventeen years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. He has his good and bad days. Here’s a look at living with autism.
The bell goes off on the alarm promptly at six o’clock a.m. Like a typical teenager, Nick needs nudging. The morning routine moves like a conveyor belt. His clothes are laid out the night before along with a plastic bin containing his hair gel, deodorant and body spray. He eats a simple breakfast while I prepare his lunch. It is essential to keep things in order to set the tone for the day. I made a few comments in the communication notebook. His speech is very limited so we rely on the notebook dispatches.
Nick slept well and didn’t wake up at all last night. But, he is in one of his “dropping moods.” He dumped out my water bottle. Al’s coffee cup nearly went airborne. He’s also hitting the popcorn button on the microwave and running the water faucets full blast. Oh, and he nearly shot me in the eye with Stop Pain spray he got out of my gym bag. It’s going to be one of those days.
Good luck, T
The bus couldn’t get here soon enough.
That’s a good day with autism. So, what a bad day looks like? Last July we attended a family reunion in Hot Springs. The air was stagnant and sweltering as we walked into town. My brother, looking to save a buck, opted to park on the outskirts of town where the parking is free. Ten blocks later we reached the city duck tour destination (motorized WWII era amphibious vehicles.) The guide honked his horn and we all blew our yellow duck bill whistles in excitement. We were met with little but a dull entry into Lake Hamilton and the highlight was the abandoned parking lot where the old K-Mart used to be.
After the tour we grabbed a bite to eat. Nick had all his favorites; chicken nuggets, fries and a Sprite. I thought for sure that he’d be fine walking back ten blocks. I was wrong. Just as we started to cross the busy main street, Nick stopped dead in his tracks. He began to grunt and pinch at his cheeks really hard. Then, he lashed out like a crazed chimpanzee thrashing, screaming, hitting and kicking.
I put his arms in a basket hold and pulled him away from the street to a nearby bank plaza. I struggled as Nick is nearly my height. By then, it had escalated to a full blown meltdown. There is no reasoning or consoling him. My older son, Hank tried to help me to control him. But I don’t allow him to take the brunt of the attack. He lashed at both of us in his rage, clawing with his fingernails piercing our skin and drawing blood.
My sister Laura and her family stood motionless off to the side. Ten minutes later, Nick began to calm down. We sat down on the hard, black tile edging that surrounded a flower bed. Nick’s whole body was shaking. I encouraged him to take deep breaths to relax. Hank licked the blood off his fingers and arms and wiped them on his cargo shorts. I looked down at my hands dripping with blood and stinging. My arms began to swell with bruises. You could see the heat coming off the pavement as gnats buzzed all around us.
I looked up and saw two police officers coming up from two different angles. They approached with caution. Their hands lay across their holsters.
“Ma’am is everything alright here? We received a dispatch of a possible assault in progress.”
I brushed off the sweat and frizzy curls off my face and shook my head. “Well, I could have use your about ten minutes ago.” Along with your tazor, I thought to myself.
Laura jumped in. “Officers, my nephew, Nick has both Down syndrome and autism. He is non-verbal. When he gets frustrated and doesn’t understand he lashes out.
“Ma’am is that correct?
The officers scanned the area looking for anything suspect. My brother-in-law offered to hike back and get the car and pick us all up. The policemen stayed with us until the minivan arrived. They handled the whole situation in a professional manner. As we waited, Nick began to show his remorse. He started to cry and patted my hand saying, “I sorry.”
That is a bad day with autism.
Nick’s behaviors with dumping have been challenging. In the past six months he has emptied out full containers of laundry detergent, fluoride rinse, baby powder, shower gel, shaving cream, and a bottle of red wine and a sixty-eight ounce tin of olive oil. The cat isn’t safe either. Nick emptied fajita seasoning all over her. We didn’t expect to have to put child locks back on the cabinets at this point in our lives.
This afternoon while gathering up a load of laundry, I heard hundreds of pellets hitting the kitchen floor rapid fire. He had emptied out a four pound bag of cat food. I grabbed the broom without any reaction and told him to clean up.
As Nick swept, I repeated my mantra. “This is a good day with autism.” Deep breath. Namaste.
That’s what in my noggin this week.