The last few months Leo and I have been working on helping Maya to learn how to take things in stride. Maya is a kid who can be ruled by her anxieties and often those anxieties concern the most routine of things, things that many people wouldn't even notice, the sound of a motorcycle coming down the street, spilling a drink, dropping a dish, stubbing a toe (ok, most people would notice that).
What I am trying to get at is that anxiety is a biggee for Maya. She is often afraid to try new things and freezes up, withdraws into herself and becomes unreachable. And although she deals pretty well with changes in schedule and for an autistic kid goes with the flow pretty well, I can see that unexpected changes throw her off.
Maya likes predictability.
So when I am cooking dinner and a little bit of vinegar splashes into a paper cut and I shout out in pain, it can really stress her out, it throws her off track and she doesn't know what to do.
It gets even worse if it is something which she has done unexpectedly.
Like a couple of months ago Maya was playing upstairs with her marbles. Now Maya has sensory issues, this year chewing on her collar or sleeves is a new behavior and it happens much more when she is stressed but she has never really been a kid to chew things or to put toys in her mouth beyond the age of 2 years anyway. She's never swallowed anything she wasn't supposed to, until this year, she swallowed a marble. I wasn't there when it happened, she was upstairs in Leo's man cave playing and then all of a sudden I heard a commotion up there and Maya was crying. I assumed she had gotten Leo angry over something and within two minutes I heard them on the stairs, Leo telling her to come downstairs to me and Maya crying, the cry I recognize that Maya gives when she has done something wrong. Me being me I just figured that Leo didn't want to lay down the law so he was bringing her downstairs to me to be the bad cop.
As it turns out she had accidentally swallowed a marble and when she had gotten downstairs she was sobbing uncontrollably, When Leo told me I looked at Maya and asked myself if she was blue, no. She was crying, so I knew she was breathing, so it wasn't blocking her airway. I took out the iPad and Googled swallow marble and saw that it wasn't a big deal. We called the weekend doctor to be on the safe side and after a few questions he reassured us that the marble would pass within a few days to a week so there was nothing to worry about.
Even so with this, Maya stood still shaking her head back and forth and muttering, "no, I don't want to." for close to an hour. It took Leo, Violah and myself holding her in turn to get her to come back.
I know that any kid can have a reaction like this on swallowing an object and in a way it's a good thing that it was a big deal to her because of course we don't want her eating marbles. But considering that if I burn myself on the oven, she has half of this reaction, a few months back we started trying to get Maya to turn her anxiety down by the use of two words.
It happens. Which Maya says as that happens.
So now, paper cut, Maya says that happens, stub my toe or her toe, that happens, drop a pile of books, that happens. That happens helps her to avoid the withdrawing, to stay in the moment and move on, no shakes, no running away, no muttering.
It's a pretty good little system if I do say so myself. Maya gets that a that happens moment means that there is nothing to get excited or upset about and we can just move on without having an episode.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that Maya is very shy about doing anything which has anything to do with reading. She is learning how to read but she never wants to show us anything that she knows except in those rarest of moments. This includes no letter or word recognition, no writing, no nothing. If you ask her or even try to just work it into the conversation she will shut down completely.
And after a lot of discussion with her teachers and her aide on this we have agreed that not pressuring her is the way to go. That even mentioning it will push her away from it so the idea is for us to just not push at all and let her show us what she feels ready to show us. Here and there I see Maya playing word or reading games on the iPad and I so much want to play with her, to encourage her but I don't dare because I know she will stop and go back to playing Angry Birds or something and the point is that I want her to keep going with those word games.
So last night Maya was in the shower. I still help her wash and condition her hair so last night while I was working the shampoo in, Maya was drawing on the glass shower doors with her finger as she usually does, drawing faces or animals. To be honest I don't even pay attention too much, I only look up at her prodding and say "beautiful" and go back to washing and conditioning.
So last night I was massaging her scalp and Maya was busy drawing and telling me a story about her new stuffed doll that we named Penelope. And then, she told me, "look mommy". And I looked up expecting to see a face that was probably Maya's rendition of Penelope but in stead I saw this:
M A Y A
There it was, she had written her name in all it's glory, I wanted to grab her and swing her around, jump up and down and shout to Leo to come upstairs and see that she wrote her own name, to scream from the rooftops that she knows how to write her name, I threw my arms around her and started shouting her name. Maya saw my reaction and knew I was about to go nuts and said, that happens. My cue that I should calm down and not have a big reaction, I should see it and move on quickly.
So I said, "Maya that's really beautiful," the way I've said about the zillion giraffes, zebras and dolls which she has drawn on the shower door.
Indeed, it does happen.