I dropped Little Nugget off at her developmental preschool a little while ago.
She's autistic for those of you who don't know. Very high functioning, though, and sometimes, just sometimes we allow ourselves to forget what's really going on in her brain.
I was late picking her up at Montessori to take her to her afternoon classes, so like most people, I took a short cut to save time. I forgot.
That one little thing, taking another route, so minuscule and insignificant to most of us, set the Little Nugget into a tailspin of anxiety, hyperventilation and hysterical slobbery crying just because it was totally unexpected. Usually she can be talked down out of it, and frankly I was really hoping for some help from the radio, because a well-timed Mumford and Sons or Phoenix song could have ended up with a much different outcome.
See, one of the things about autism is that once an autie or aspie becomes upset, it's like their brain short circuits. They get stuck in an escalating state of eminent meltdown of varying degrees of severity, depending on the level of stress they are experiencing. On the grand scheme of things, this one wasn't horrible, so I kept going, thinking she'd be OK once she saw we were at school. I've actually been switching up the routes we take for a couple of months now, just to keep her from getting too rigid in her routine.
So yeah, I forgot. I forgot that our girl doesn't have neurons that fire like everyone else, and that she just can't drastically change (in her mind) her routine at will, and that she has to get used to new things on her own time, not rushed because Mommy's running late again.
We get to school and she's still in meltdown mode. I get her to calm a little in the car, but by then, school has already started. We got there on time, BTW, due to my amazing new shortcut, but at what cost? We sit in the car for another half hour. Once calmed, we make our way to the front door, she starts freaking again (maybe the blustery wind?) and breaks away from me. I grab her because I don't want her to get hurt in the parking lot, and carry her back to the door, her kicking and screaming the whole way. I get the door open and she drops to the ground still kicking and screaming when I felt a hand on my shoulder behind me, saying "I'll take her, mom, it's ok". It was her teacher and case worker from last year, Ms. Paula, the one who was instrumental in turning our girl's life around and showing her how to shine.
Autism has taught me many things, some bad, like how judgemental people can be, but mostly good, like taking time to think about things from other perspectives, the value of patience (still working on that!) and the goodness and kind-heartedness of our community. That I'll never forget.
Thank you Ms. Paula and my dear friend Jorgi. I'm eternally grateful for all the hard work you do.