For the past four years Ethan and I have participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Each year we have completed the same three-mile section of the run, and each year we have completed it on a bike. First we did it on a bike with a bike trailer, where I could pull him along behind me. As he out grew that we bought a larger tandem bike.
Other then our mode of transportation, each year has been identical.
- Ethan gets out of school early
- We meet at the starting area
- We put on our Torch Run t-shirts and bike helmets
- We ride around the parking lot to warm up
- We take pictures
- The torch arrives and it is passed-off to our group and we begin our leg
- We meltdown!
The only other thing different over the past few years was the timing of the meltdown. Initially it didn’t start for several blocks. Last year it started almost immediately.
The cause of these meltdowns hasn’t been elusive, as some meltdowns have been, I have always known why we do so well building up to the bike ride, and then suddenly shift gears into a full blown, ‘Dad, I want to kill them…We’re beating you…Uuuuuuuuughhhh...Yellow Car!’ kind of a day. As of Friday, we had just never found the right solution.
Like I said, we have always known his reason for the ‘Dad, I want to kill them…We’re beating you…Uuuuuuuuughhhh...Yellow Car!’ moments. It was always that he HAS TO BE first, it’s just that simple. For instance:
- After family prayer, he HAS TO BE the first to kiss his mom.
- If we all just drove home in the car he HAS TO BE first inside the house.
- If we are driving home from church in separate cars, the car he is in HAS TO BE first in the garage.
- Etc., etc.
This normally does not cause too many problems except for the one time somebody inadvertently entered the house before him. Tears, screams, and forbidden words echoed through the garage. He asked (really screamed) that we all had to exit the house and get back in the car. For the sake of peace we obliged. Everybody returned to their seats in the car and we shut the car doors. As soon as the last door shut, his opened and he shot to the kitchen door. Before any of the rest of us could even reach the door to the house, he was inside, through the front room, and running up the stairs. Life was now good, again!
Recently he has switched a little from feeling the need to always be first. It is manifested in only one small act, but it is change, and we’ll take it, even if it is only one thing. Of course with it comes the same caveat. The new change is always met with the same level of obsessive-compulsive compliance as its predecessor, and if violated still brings about a nearly identical tirade.
Here is the new rule: Dad has to buckle his seat belt first, before anybody else buckles up.
This doesn’t matter if I am driving, a passenger, in the front seats or in the back. I have to buckle first. For years the unspoken (more like weeping-wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth-enforced) rule was that he and he alone had to be the first person to buckle his seat belt in the car, so why the sudden change? According to Ethan it is because,
‘Dad is the leader of the family!’
As a result, we accept his sudden rule change, and when violated, we suffer the consequences until we all unbuckle and I buckle my seat belt first, and then life can go on.
So, we assume our best yoga posture and engage The Look often and follow the obsessive-compulsive demands of autism with no solutions in sight, just acceptance or consequences for their violation. After all it’s really about finding peace, and if peace can be found by surrendering to them, oh well, we’ll take it. That doesn’t mean we are sequestered in our war room, plotting and planning different offensives, and approaches to these attacks. In fact I think we do very well.
On Friday our careful planning paid off. Some may call it a bribe, others a reward system, I simply call it STRATEGRY!
I decided to offer him two large Hershey Chocolate bars, a Pepsi, and a yellow tape at the finish line, in exchange for no ‘talking ugly.’ He agreed. For two days we reinforced the plan we reminded him that if he did A, B and C, then he would get the chocolate bar, Pepsi, and the yellow tape at the finish line.
It started off perfect!
So, how did the rest of it go? Let me just show you…