I never know what the morning will bring for Cali. She can be cheery, complacent, grumpy, frustrated, you name it. Ava on the other hand is very predictable. She is the gosh darn cutest little three year old with grumpy written all over her face. How one manages to pull off grumpy and cute at the same time is beyond me, but Ava has certainly figured it out! This morning I was greeted in our work out room with cute, grumpy Ava and frustrated, irritable Cali.
Cali loves making her bed in the morning, but this morning the bed was being temperamental and not working with her. She was frustrated. She also had to go to the bathroom and asked if I would go with her. I mentioned Ava being willing to go with her, but if she wanted to go with me she would have to wait until I finished part of my work out. She did not like this one bit! Through her irritation and frustration, she told me she was not going to school and that “school was ugly!”. I knew I couldn’t win the battle by telling her she was going to go to school, so instead we started to talk through why she didn’t want to go. She explained to me she had had a very bad dream about an “ugly, ugly eagle and bat”. She didn’t want to go to school because what if she thought about the dream, and couldn’t finish her worksheets. As she was explaining this to me, it gave me an idea. I asked her, “Today would you like me to walk you to class instead of dropping you off? I can take you to Miss Valerie and tell her all about your bad dream. If she knows about your bad dream, she will be able to help you.” I didn’t know if this option would put her mind at ease, but I figured it was worth a shot. It did! She looked at me and nodded her head yes. Wahoo!! No battle fought, only good communication. And let me tell you how long we have worked for this kind of communication!
Cali biggest hurdle to climb has been communication and regulating her emotions. This is what we have worked on from day one and continue to work on day in and day out, among other things. For her to tell me she was frustrated and didn’t want to go to school was a great step in our conversation. Then to describe the reason as to why she didn’t want to go to school, was another huge communication accomplishment. Then to listen to my ideas on how we might solve this problem and agree with the final solution was another great step in our communication and her being able to regulate her frustration.
The time came to pack up and head to school. She and Ava hopped into the car with no complaints. I asked Cali again if she would like me to walk her in and talk with Miss Valerie. She said yes. We walked in and first dropped off Ava. Next was Cali’s class. We walked in hand in hand directly toward Miss Valerie. I knelt down and asked Cali, loud enough so that Miss Valerie could hear, what she wanted me to tell the teacher. She whispered in my ear, “Tell her about my bad dream”. I told Miss Valerie all about the dream and told her that Cali may become worried periodically throughout the class if she happened to think about her dream. I looked to Cali and she stood there with a sweet smile spread across her face. She then gave me the biggest hug. It felt so good! I said goodbye, I love you, and walked out of the classroom.
It felt good to feel Cali’s hug, but it felt even better to think about what we had just accomplished. I think back to all the times I have responded rashly or emotionally to a “I don’t want to go to school” or whatever other defiant comment coming from Cali, and the end result was never positive. In doing so, I would shut off any potential door to communication. Instead, I would get on a power trip and tell her she was going to school. Period. Today I learned a HUGE lesson! And once again I was proud of how far Cali has come!
It feels good when I have crossed a hurdle as a parent, but to cross an autism related hurdle…now that feels even better!!!!!