Having a non-verbal, severely autistic child can be very challenging at times! I’ve had countless people tell me ‘that it will get easier as he gets older…’ In some ways it has…in others it has actually become even more difficult. We were chatting in the car yesterday about how much progress Toby has made in his first year at school (he started a special school full time at the age of 3) His eye-contact has improved dramatically, his toleration levels are far greater, he now wears ear defenders happily, his confidence in water has grown, he is far less teary and emotional and probably most importantly he loves school! Although some of those things sound small they are hugely significant for someone with autism. Toby ready for his first day of School last September.
In a lot of ways Toby going to School has made life much easier for us all. It has allowed me to spend quality time with Teddy during the day without everything revolving around Toby and his needs, it has given Toby the structure, routine and specialist input that he needs. It has also given me a much needed break from caring for Toby and I have far more energy, patience and grace for him when he returns! However it has made school holidays very challenging as he really misses School. He often sits at the door crying wanting his taxi to come pick him up. Obviously trying to explain to a child that can not speak that it’s the summer holidays and everyone has six weeks off doesn’t really work. We’ve tried visual cards, photos etc however we just try to keep him busy and distracted and pray for grace (for him and us!) We’ve had an interesting day today…he’s been quite emotional and has had a couple of meltdowns. I am finding his meltdowns increasingly challenging, a two year old having a tantrum is much more manageable than someone twice that size! When he is kicking, screaming and nipping I find it hard to restrain him and keep myself (and everyone else) safe until he calms down. Joel is far better than me in those situations – he’s been properly trained through work and has restrained teenagers and he is far more patient than me! I could blame my fragile head from our camping accident last week but regardless of that I know that I know that I struggle anyway when he is kicking off. So for now his meltdowns are not getting any easier to deal with.
Another thing that we are really struggling with is him weeing and pooing everywhere! (Sorry if this is too much info for some people but I do want to be real about the challenges we’re facing!) Toby seems to go through phases in which he hates wearing a nappy…we seem to be in one of those at the moment! He takes his clothes off as soon as he thinks we’re not looking and usually has a wee or a poo. We’ve cleared up several wee’s today and two poo’s (one of which as stood in…yuck!!!) He obviously doesn’t like the feel of wearing a nappy and he has some awareness or needing to go…however we don’t really know how to potty train a child who does not speak or sign or use PECs. Our current plan is to put him straight on the potty as soon as he tries to take his nappy off however that does involve watching him constantly and its usually when we leave the room (to go to the bathroom ourselves or put some washing on etc) that he does it. He will get there eventually and we’re not in a rush..Toby does things at his own pace.
We’re trusting God for bucket loads of patience and grace. We also look to him for wisdom – he knows and understands Toby far better than we do.
Each age and stage of parenting any child involves new challenges. We are thankful how far Toby has come and we do see lots of areas of improvement. Lots of things have improved as he has grown up this year and as always we are incredibly proud of him.