Saturday, November 26, 2011
Change is Always Possible
Change is not something that happens suddenly or without conscious effort. Change is an uncomfortable experience for anyone. For those with autism, change can be more than uncomfortable, it can be downright unsettling. It takes time to get used to something and the process cannot be related through words, but the end result can always be seen: a parent will accomplish that change through gentle persistence, through maintaining that this current behavior is unacceptable and needs to be adjusted.
I want to relate a memory from long ago. When I was in Kindergarten, before I knew that I had autism, there were unfenced woods on the boundary of the playground at school. It was well known and enforced that kids were not allowed to enter those woods. As a kindergartener, I pushed that boundary. I ventured a little ways into those woods at times, never out of sight of the school. And I got in trouble a few times. This was the same year when I didn’t eat my lunch, as I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks ago. I was told that it was not safe to go into those woods. I was carefree as only a five year old could be.
The start of first grade brought some changes. I started eating my entire lunch and I stayed well away from the woods. At the time, I couldn’t say what had prompted that change. The closest association I could make to how I was able to implement and stick to that change of routine was the simple fact that I was not in Kindergarten anymore. I was now a first grader. In my mixed “Hi-Five” class with both Kindergarteners and first graders, I felt that I had to grow up a little. I felt like I was supposed to be a role model now.
Many parents may want their children to change, to gain acceptable behaviors, to fulfill their responsibilities, and to learn how to function in this world. I am suggesting that a change can come from sources that no parent can anticipate. Such as simply entering first grade like the example I just gave. There comes a time, when a child who has autism recognizes that there needs to be a change in behavior. Once that happens, the change can be sudden to parents, but to the child with autism, it is the end result of an internal process. No matter how many tantrums there might be, or how many tense evenings pass by, never lose hope. Your child with autism is changing in his or her own way. You just can’t see it yet.