Today I'm happy to welcome Bobbi Sheahan. She wrote a book. She's a published author. And she's writing for ME. Sweeeet.
Things That Take Years Off the End of Mom’s Life
You know that getting-to-know-you chat when moms meet each other and begin to exchange basic information about our kids? It’s a little different when your child has autism.
There's always a How-Much-To-Say dilemma: usually I am content to come off as Crazy Helicopter Mom until my child does something that frightens Our New Friends. Fortunately or unfortunately, that never takes long, and then there’s A Situation. If the word "autism" hasn't come up yet, it does at that point. I'll acknowledge that my child doesn’t have the caution that other kids have, or that she’s done some objectively zany things, or that she's a risk-taker, to a greater degree than the norm, and that's when the fun starts. The responses seem to fall into one of two categories: either our New Friend will run screaming into the night and I'll never see her again, or – surprisingly frequently – she’ll dismiss it with some version of All Kids Do That.
Example: My kid puts things in her mouth that aren’t food.
Response: All Kids Do That.
Light bulbs? Really? All kids eat light bulbs? How about thumbtacks? Sticks? Mulch? How about mulch? And mulch consumption before age 3 doesn’t count.
Or: My kid used to like to run away.
Response: Yeah, All Kids Do That.
For six and a half years? Without stopping?
Or: My kid took a while to potty train.
Forget the Q&A; just hold me while I weep. Maybe someday Jill will have me back to write an article called Potty Train Your Child in Ten Years or Less. Wait, we’re in danger of getting off topic. Let's get move on to dangers with electricity.
Or: My child doesn’t exercise caution around electrical appliances.
Response: Yeah, All Kids Do That.
No, really. She’s not a toddler anymore, and she has conquered a half-dozen floor lamps, tried innumerable times to toast her hands (yes, Toast. Her. Hands.), and once she grabbed a hot light bulb and burned the skin off her hand. Not the same light bulb that she bit into – this was a different light bulb, on a different day. But thanks for asking. Would you like some toast?
You get the picture. Our kids’ senses are often calibrated completely differently than the rest of the world’s senses. That can be maddening to your child – say, if he has very acute hearing or smell – but it can also be dangerous. Sensory issues can mess with your perception of pain, for example. My Sweet Baboo used to stand on anthills and watch the fire ants march up and down her legs, biting as they went.
Now, let’s be honest; before I had a kid with autism, I would have seen those welts on the child's legs and thought, “Dear God, what is wrong with that mother? How could she let that happen?” Well, I'll tell you. I successfully dragged her off of about 386 anthills that spring, and I missed a couple.
Then again, the next kid with autism might have just the opposite reaction, and might be tearing at his skin after it’s been brushed against a leaf; I’ve heard mothers tell me about how their kids basically scratched their skin off, too, for no apparent reason. My child has attempted to take the skin off of her arms with a potato peeler, but I have managed to stop her. About eighty times.
So, please, please don’t tell me All Kids Do That. Or stand back if you do. I might just have to come after you with a potato peeler and some fire ants.
Bobbi Sheahan is a big fan of this series, and she still can’t believe that Jillsmo asked her to contribute to it; she requests that one of you please pinch her. Bobbi and Kathy DeOrnellas, Ph.D. are the authors of What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child With Autism; A Mom and a Therapist Offer Heartfelt Guidance for the First Five Years (Future Horizons, 2011). Bobbi’s website is www.bobbisheahan.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter at @BobbiSheahan or on Facebook.