I’m reposting this from my old blog – this was written about a couple years ago now.
It had been 2 months since our move from Austin, TX back to AZ and I felt like things were going great.
Collin was over the panicked I-hate-this-school-because-everything-is-different phase, Drew was already in the swing of things in his pre-k class at the same school, and Violet seemed to take everything in stride and land on her feet ready to go.
I had been living day to day with a good amount of peace. The kids seemed happy and moving forward developmentally and my husband and I seemed to have a handle on our lives, too. It seemed all of our hard work was paying off. I think I was optimistic enough that I might have somehow floated up into the denial region.
Autism? What autism? It barely effects us!
Then one day when Drew got home from school, I decided to introduce him to “Finding Nemo.” He will LOVE it! I thought.
We waved goodbye to the bus driver and he walked inside the house with a big smile, like he always did. Taking off his backpack I said, “Drew, let’s watch a show about fishies!”
He said, “No!” and shook his head. I expected this since he’s usually hesitant about new things, but if I just keep moving forward, a lot of times he figures out it’s not so bad. So I ignored his no and said, “It’s a really good movie! I think you’re going to like it!” in a sing-song voice.
I turned the TV on and it came to the Finding Nemo DVD Menu; a serene, calm ocean view similar to this one…
…and I heard a yelp.
Thinking Drew must need help with something or was hurt, I turn around only to find him staring at the screen in complete panic. He had a look of “Fight or Flight” in his eyes, but was so afraid he was completely frozen. His feet glued to the floor. His body half-turned away, but his eyes fixed on the TV like he couldn’t tear himself away.
The image of his eyes is forever engrained in my mind. Total panic.
My poor sweet boy.
“Oh, Drew… Honey, it’s okay… it’s just-”
and before I could say anything else or reach out to comfort him, he bolted. Shrieks of terror escaping from his lips every few seconds as he quickly made his escape down the hallway.
I sat for a minute and was forced to remember how random and irrational autism can sometimes be. This calm scene and music created complete anarchy in my sons mind, simply because it is new to him. No matter how many days I think I must’ve found a great balance for everyone, I’m humbly reminded it has nothing to do with me at all. You can take some proactive steps with therapies, sure, but there is no rhyme or reason. These moments are unavoidable.
I gathered my senses, took a deep breath and went to comfort Drew who was in his room peeking around the corner of his doorway. His eyes looking for the TV, obviously hoping this new Nemo intruder would be gone. He kept repeating, “No!” while shaking his head and then looking back to the screen.
After a bit of time, he calmed down and was playing in his room. I knew this was one of those moments that he could learn from and despite his fear and my desire to take it away, I knew the movie needed to continue so he could see the outcome of it being okay… good… safe.
“Come here, watch this with me. It’s a good movie about fishies.”
“It’s really good. There are lots of fish… and turtles, too!”
“No.” while pushing his train through the tunnel.
“Okay. Mommy and Violet are going to watch it and you can too if you change your mind.”
That seemed okay with him and he continued with his trains in his room.
Violet “watched” it and every once in awhile I would catch Drew inching himself down the hallway with a smirk on his face. He hesitantly liked it but it had to be in his own time. Toward the end of the movie, he was out at the couch actually smiling and enjoying it like I knew he would.
I hate that he has to experience this… that I can’t just sit down and watch a cute, little movie with him without him feeling complete panic because it’s unfamiliar. I truly hate it. But I am so proud that he slowly, carefully allowed himself to try something new. In his own time and in his own inching-down-the-hall way.