Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Temper Tantrum in the Parking Lot

Today as I'm running around getting stuff done for the lunch, Nathan decides to throw a tantrum in the mall parking lot because he wants to go back into the mall and come out the same door we went in.

These little rigidities of his still surprise me sometimes.  For the most part, he's fairly adaptable and easy-going.  And then he'll set his foot down about something so incredibly odd.  When he was two, he went through a three month period where only Daddy could change his clothes.  Which would have been fine except for me being the parent at home and Nathan being unable to abide the slightest stain or wet spot.

He would scream for hours about it, completely unwilling to allow me to change his shirt or pants but also unable to tolerate the dirty clothes.  I couldn't even get him stripped to let him run naked until Daddy got home.  It was a very long few months.

We were doing the baby steps process, trying to get him comfortable with me handing Daddy the clothes (this still could be enough to set up a tantrum).  The plan was to continue to gradually increase my involvement until the problem was resolved.

Except Nathan skipped some steps.  One day out of the blue he announced that he wanted me to get him changed.  I have no idea why I was unacceptable before and suddenly fine again. 

I've always told people that Nathan is my poster child for early intervention.  Because treatment started almost a year and a half (comparitively) before Alex, Nathan has done much better at integrating.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that Nathan does have challenges of his own which I need to be sensitive to.  Alex's challenges are so much greater that I end up focusing much of the household decisions on what will make him comfortable rather than Nathan.

I think this is a common problem when a child with autism has a sibling.  (Or any child with special needs or circumstances.)  The needs are so much greater that the autistic child ends up taking up the lion's share of resources and attention.  It's hard to argue against it when they need it so badly and it makes such a difference in their prognosis.

But at the same time, there's still a sibling with their own unique challenges and identity who needs to be cherished and nurtured.  It's difficult to strike the right balance and no matter what I do, there's always some residual guilt.  I want to be 100% there for both of them, but it's mathematically impossible.

So I try to make sure they each have good Mommy time and I try to be sensitive to both of them.  I'm not perfect but I'm making the effort, which has to count for something.

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