Friday, October 11, 2013

When Normal is a Stranger

I had a long talk with Maya's school teacher yesterday.  He called to ask me how things are going at home with Maya these days.  After a very rough start to the school year, things have calmed down, Maya seems less stressed and out of her element than a month before.

In all honesty though, she is more defiant than she usually is.

We talked a lot about it, I shared the things I am observing at home, that Maya wants much more control over her routine, she has always been a child that needs to do things in her own time, but now things like bathing, eating, sleeping and getting dressed are now things that she wants to dictate the who, what, where, when.  And most of the time what she is dictating is whether.

Her teacher told me they are noticing the same things at school and we talked a long time about whether this was "new" behavior.

I said again, that she has never been a kid that flows through a routine without hitting bumps, but what seems different is that while the bumps used to be more about her fears of the unknown or her difficulty moving from one activity to another, they now seem to be much more about her simply just not wanting to do what is asked of her.

A thought occurred to me then.  Perhaps she is just starting to be an obnoxious teenager earlier?  What if what we are seeing is not related to autism or special needs, but simply my little girl is growing up?  Maybe, although it is early, she is going through what every kid goes through.

Normal?  We left normal behind 6 years ago. What's normal?

The idea was kind of revolutionary.  I am so used to the world of special needs, that so much of what goes on with Maya, so many of her challenges are related to autism  or to her physical and cognitive delays, that the thought of her just going through something normal, is the furthest idea from my mind.

Normal often lives in another galaxy and to be honest, I feel a little like a visitor in a foreign land without a passport, who can't read or speak the language.

Maya is going through puberty even though she is just shy of her 10th birthday.  Her body is swirling with hormones, while at the same time, mentally, in most things she is around the level of a 7 year old.  So despite what is going on physically and emotionally her whole world revolves around stuffed animals, stickers, and she still very much likes to watch Disney Junior and not whatever-tween-show-is-in-right-now.

Still, although I try to understand what is going on inside my daughter, it must be even tougher for her to make sense of it.  Actually she is not even trying to make sense of it, she is just living *in* it, it's just happening to her.  She still acts very much like a small child and enjoys the activities and life of a small child, but yet she is becoming a woman, and not just physically, but emotionally.  It must be really confusing for her.

The hardest part of it is that Maya has a tough time relaying information to us.  She knows her feelings but she has a hard time naming them.  She is typically autistic in that what she understands best are things which are visual, in plain language, simply put.  None of those attributes are even close to puberty.

These discussions have to take place at just the right place and time and then it is the conversational equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle.  She gives you a piece or two and you have to gather all the pieces from 47 talks and try and find the edges and build inward and not until you have a good half of the pieces together, can you see what the actual picture is, and even then, there are always missing pieces, so you are never quite sure if you are missing something important.

That's life as the parent of a child on the autistic spectrum though.  It's our reality.

Can you understand why normal is throwing me for a loop?  I am sitting at my card table with my  puzzle trying to fit pieces together.  I am not prepared for normal.

I've accepted autism, I wonder if I can accept normal?  I am in all honesty, not sure I like normal.  There's not much to do about normal except grit your teeth and suffer through it.

And Maya's 10, what if this normal puberty stuff lasts until she is 16?

Where's the vodka?

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