Jill is mother to two beautiful boys: Child 1 is 8 years old and has autism. Child 2 is 5 years old and doesn't. Child 1 and Child 2 are their actual names, but have been changed in the post below so that you don't think she's weird. Like there's any chance of that.
When Jill is not writing, you can find her at the Target in Albany, California. She'll be the one wearing a Snuggie with the word "Mayor" emblazoned across the front. Take it away, Jill.
So, is he sick or isn’t he??
Jacob, my child with autism is one of those “sensory avoider” types; when he gets overwhelmed, he will withdraw into himself as much as possible and stim like nobody’s business. Even though he is incredibly verbal, when this happens it is almost impossible to get any information out of him. He may cry, but he won’t tell me why; he may feel like crap, but he won’t say so. If something is going on with him, I just have to rely on my Momtuition, and guess.
This morning was one of those days. It’s the first day back to school after the long Thanksgiving holiday and everybody overslept. We’re all rushing around like idiots and as usual I’m just shouting orders at everybody. “GO GET DRESSED!” “WE’RE LEAVING IN 10 MINUTES” “OH MY GOD WHERE ARE MY SHOES???!” “WHO AM I??” etc. Jake is always really slow to get himself ready as it is, in fact his usual routine of getting dressed goes like this:
Jump, jump, jump. Flap, flap, flap. Run out of the room, run back in the room, take off pants, run out of the room, run back in the room. Jump, jump, jump. Open underwear drawer, look inside, close underwear drawer. Flap, flap, flap. Run out of the room, run back in the room. Open underwear drawer, take out underpants, close underwear drawer. Jump, jump, jump. Repeat until dressing process is complete.
So, I’m used to things taking a long time. This morning, though, all he was doing was sitting on his bed, naked; no jumping or running or flapping. This was my first clue that something was wrong. I kept asking “Are you okay? Do you need help?” And he would just shake his beautiful head “no” and mumble something which was probably “I don’t need any help,” but I can’t be sure because I couldn’t hear him. Eventually I went in and helped him get ready, which meant sitting in the chair and giving him directions. I kept asking “do you feel okay?” and every time he would say “I feel fine.” I didn’t believe him.
My second clue came in the form of him not wanting any breakfast. This is a kid who would eat a horse if I served it up to him with enough ketchup. He’s a BIG eater, and when he says he’s not hungry, that means something is wrong. I tried shoving some cereal at him, anyway, but he didn’t want any. Another red flag.
We finally all got in the car, and I’m waiting for him to buckle himself up. I look in the rearview mirror and he’s just sitting there. I ask him if he wants some help and he says yes, so I get out of the car and come around to his side. He was holding the seat belt in his hand as if he had just given up; it was simply too hard to make the effort to pull the belt around himself. I asked, for the last time, “do you feel okay?” and he said “no, I don’t feel okay.” OMG an actual answer?! So, I quickly make the decision to keep him home. Even though I’m still not completely convinced that he’s sick, if he IS sick, I would hate to send him and then have to go pick him up later. I say “okay, out of the car,” and I lead him up the stairs, into the house and I yell to my husband “I’M SENDING JAKE BACK UP TO YOU, I’LL BE BACK IN 15 MINUTES!”
That was when I noticed the smile.
Now, this kid cannot lie to save his life. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t try to lie, he’s just really really bad at it. He’ll say “no, I did not eat any oreos” with a face full of chocolate crumbs; stuff like that. However, at the moment I sent him back into the house, he had a huge smile on his face, the kind that says “Holy crap I don’t have to go to school today!!? WIN!” I was still uncertain, though, because it could have just been the relief of knowing he could spend the day resting, as opposed to the relief of knowing that he just pulled a fast one on his mom.
I rush back to the car and drive his brother to school. I get on my phone and call my client to cancel. I rush to the store for some things I need and then I get home. And when I finally get back, WHAT is this kid doing? He’s sitting in the TV room, happily playing on the computer and chewing gum. Fucking GUM. HE’S NOT SICK AT ALL, IS HE???? I say “you’re not sick at all, are you?” and he says “Do I still get to stay home today?”
Sigh. I’m making him go to Target with me, as a punishment.