I often talk about how deep D is. He is a very complex little man.
The reason I say onion boy, is if you remember in the film Shrek, when he is trying to explain to Donkey that their was more to ogres than the scary image everyone believed about them. He said ogres are like onions – Donkey replies something about him being smelly with a hairy bottom, but , it is all about layers. D’s layers are very tightly packed and he only shows certain layers to different people, depending on how he believes they should know him.
At school he is quiet and studious. To his class mates he can be a bit of a joker – you often see him pulling faces to make them laugh. He is a charmer – you can tell this by the way the girls who flock to him, and he has a fan club of older girls who say hello to him by name – this is probably also to do with his cute chubby cheeks and his thick gingery hair.
These are all such positive things, that make me love him even more, just because of knowing how hard it is for him to only show this side of him, keeping the darker side of his Aspergers hidden from the world outside.
Behind this imagine he portrays is a boy so deep in turmoil that he finds it so hard to know how to deal with it, and that is when the meltdown start. His brain has so much to deal with that the only way he knows of shutting out more mental stimulation is to shut out the world around him by screaming and hitting out – both physically and verbally. It is his way of coping. It can be difficult for those around him to understand sometimes it is just what he needs to do other wise he brain might just explode! I can only imagine keeping his emotions in check all day must be like holding your breathe underwater. You know you can do it for a certain length of time, and know you can pull your head out when it gets too much, and the second you do, you gulp for air. Well, for D, the gulp for air, is screaming and going wild in the safe environment we call home.
Now, I am not saying we let him go wild with little or no consequence. Far from it. It is a fine line to walk, to know what is meltdown and what is just a 6-year-old having a temper tantrum. We do get it wrong. We are after all only human. When though it is obviously a tantrum we go through the stages of removing for quiet time, and then talking it through when he has calmed down to make him aware of why he is going to get a punishment. However, when it is meltdown, the steps are so similar. We have to make sure he doesn’t believe he is being punished for a behaviour he can not control. Instead, we have to remove him from people or things that could do damage to him, and this often means getting him onto the bottom of the stairs. This is a quiet, cool area which gives him time to work through his demons. I will often sit with him, but when he is like this, he is extremely abusive and so alone time can be better for him – and me! We do talk about any behaviours that are unacceptable afterwards, as it is important he learns what he can not get away with in society. My job after all as a parent is to prepare my children to be able to function in society in the best way they can. If doing so means teaching him how to control his emotions, and learn other strategies then that is what we have to work on – together.
After an incident, D is always exhausted, after all, he has just let out a whole days worth of stuff. He often wants cuddles – he is a very cuddly wee man. When he cuddles you, the misery of the meltdown disappear. The abuse is irrelevant because my baby is safe.
The reason I am talking about this today, is because yesterday two people told me about the sides of D they had seen.
We have never hidden the diagnosis of either of the boys. Now, I am not saying we hang neon signs around their necks to advertise but those that need to know, know and parents of people he interacts with are aware. It is only fair, not just for the boys, but for anyone coming into contact with them. Because M has far more obvious traits, such as his flapping and total inability to forge deep friendships, it is often easier to talk about his problems. He has a book he has taken into school a few times, that talks about autism, and it has been shared with his class, so his immediate peers do know M is different. M will tell you he has a special brain because it is wired differently! D though doesn’t really want to talk about it publicly. He can put on his mask of calmness and the day happens. It is therefore much harder to introduce D’s problems to people. At school, his teacher says she has seen him take himself away from the group a couple of times when he is looking stressed, but other than that has seen nothing. I once said the school didn’t take his diagnosis seriously which got me into terrible trouble with the head, but what I meant by that is how can they have contingency plans and strategies in place for him, if they have never seen what he can be like. It just isn’t possible to plan even with out input. Who knows what might happen if he lost it at school? It is a total unknown. Let us just hope it is one we not going to find out the answer too very quickly!
Yesterday, the Mum of D’s girlfriend was chatting to me. She is quite aware of his problems, as he spends some time playing at their house. She also has a friend whose daughter has recently been diagnosed so has asked about various things. She said to me that at the weekend, she was shocked to have heard the other side of D. At the back of our house is a grassy mound with a slide and swings on it, and they live at the other side. She said she had heard screaming on the mound and look out to see D being very verbally abusive to his Dad. I could tell she was a little uncomfortable telling me, but I told her that sometimes it makes my life a tad easier when others do see or hear it because I don’t feel I’m getting the look of disbelief when I recount some of his goings on. She told me she had always believed it, but was shocked at the ferocity of the situation. It is scary to see a child lose it totally when you see it regularly, but it must have been more so when she has only witnessed cute quiet D that wants to marry her daughter!
On the flip of this, yesterday evening was the last Junior Jazzercise for this term. D had previous told the teacher he was due for his operation on his knees, and at the end of the class, she came and wished him luck for the new year. She then said what a brave little man he was – now I would often think how patronising at something like that, but she qualified it by saying that he just takes everything in his stride and gets on with life even if he is in pain or confused about the world about him. I thought what a lovely thing to say, and very true as we never hear him complain about anything.
It is so easy to see another human being and think you know them, but we only ever know the face they want to show us. There are few people we let see all of our masks, and those we do are the ones we hold closest.
In the mean time all I can do it love, and teach how to grow, my smelly, hairy bummed, onion boy.