Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Never-Can-Say-Goodbye Girl

Audrey does not fit the stereotype of someone with autism who is unable to form emotional attachments to people.  She is very warm and affectionate, and has never had a problem falling in love with all manner of teachers, therapists, family members, and even some kids.

But having said that, when it comes time to bid goodbye to someone, it is seemingly impossible to make her understand that she might not be seeing them for a very long time, or even ever again. 

My father died back in August, and while he wasn't really a fun-loving, hands-on type of grandpa, he was always there in his La-Z-Boy whenever we visited.  We go over to my parents' house every Sunday for dinner, and in the seven months since he passed away she has never once asked where he is.  Back in August, I pondered how to explain his death to Audrey.  I ended up doing nothing because she made it so easy for me to do so, and I figured why belabor it when she just doesn't seem to grasp the concept.

Kitty kisses Audrey goodbye as she wriggles away.
She's the same way with the living.  We relocated from California to Illinois just as Audrey was transitioning out of Early Intervention, so we had to move on in more ways than one from our beloved EI therapist.  Kitty (hi Kitty!) was there for me during the worst time of my life, through all of the anxiety over Audrey's missed milestones as well as her diagnosis.  Audrey and I could not have loved her more.

When it came time to say goodbye, it was for reals.  We were moving far away and wouldn't be able to be a part of each others' lives as we'd had.  It was one of those horrible ugly-cry farewells, but the whole scene went right over Audrey's head. 

Unlike with my Dad, I find myself trying to shake the requisite emotions out of her for the benefit of the person that we're saying goodbye to: 
"THIS IS A VERY SAD THING.  YOU SHOULD BE CRYING.  WE ARE NEVER GOING TO SEE THIS PERSON AGAIN.  REALLY.  NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER!!!"

That does seem to get her crying, but probably not for the right reasons.

It must be so hard on teachers to make their goodbyes to children that they've grown attached to and not get any acknowledgment in return.  But I suppose that they're used to it.

Audrey will likely be transitioning out of the school that she's been in for the past couple of years, and when she goes, we'll have to make our goodbyes to teachers, aids, and therapists that she's grown so close to. 

And on her last day of school, she'll will walk out the door just like any other day, and move on along to the next set of teachers and aids that she'll (hopefully) charm the pants off of.  The little heart breaker.

22 comments:

  1. We find goodbyes hard too. The death one is REALLY hard. My MIL recently died, and my 9yo says "Now what?" We had to explain that everything would be the same, just without visiting Nana in the nursing home anymore. It's all hard and strange to try and explain.

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  2. I remember the first time students moved on when I was working at the developmental preschool and I actually cried a little- I loved those little guys...but they just walked off without even giving me a hug (until their parents prompted them)- little brats ;)

    No seriously, it's hard for kids to understand the "never see you again"- even for preschool-aged "normies".

    Brian and I have run into a couple of his past ABA workers in stores and such and he doesn't even react as if he knew them- I always feel so bad for them as they are all excited to see this little boy they spent YEARS with and he's just like, "Move out of my way, I'm trying to get to the train aisle"

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  3. Katie is like this, too, although I am not sure if this is just a general kid thing? Most of them don't really seem to give a crap...or maybe just mine don't? ha. Although, at least Ben asks to see people and to have playdates, where I feel we could all fall of the earth and Katie wouldn't care. Neither seem to get attached to teachers/therapists, though.

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  4. This makes me feel better about the half-assed leg hug she gave me when we parted ways after our magical Disney adventure. I hope she is better with Hello because I'm planning on smothering that little cutie with hugs when I see her this summer.

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  5. I know that as moms we tend to worry a lot but I actually would prefer if my son was a little more like Audrey. He is - in a way. He will not mention someone's absence for around 6 months - then he breaks out all the toys and TV shows from the time they were in his life and ask me where they are. So that's kind of hard. I hope Audrey is not storing it up like that!

    I think it's a mixed blessing that she doesn't reach out - of course you want her to understand the emotions but at the same time - shield her (and you) from the bad. She will be a heartbreaker though (sigh). I will not let my Tootles fall for her charms!!

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  6. She'll most certainly be a heartbreaker to a whole scad of teachers and others!

    That is a frustrating situation, especially with her grandpa. You definitely want her to "get it." Maybe she will some day!

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  7. My son is 4 and we had a very similar situation when my granddad died. I guess I tried to focus on the relief that I felt that he never asked where he was, so I didn't have to try and explain it to him. Still, you describe so well what's so damn hard about that.

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  8. It is an extreme form of in-the-moment-ness, is it not. Alex is the same way.

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  9. My Aspie son is very affectionate as well. But unlike your daughter he does not like change and does miss people. He does not know how to show that emotion but he will sometimes misbehave and have more meltdowns like he did when his best friend moved to Australia.

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  10. If I had a nickel for every time a teacher or therapist cried because of having to say goodbye to one of my girls.........I'd have 15 cents.

    It doesn't really hit Grace Anne til next day or so. And only if she really really liked spending time with that person.

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  11. With my son....there is nothing. He actually refuses to do goodbyes at all at the moment. When our beloved dog died, I had to show him the still body and write a story about how the dog is "finished". Not for the grief but to stop the incessant of "where Wiggy"? stemming from freaking out about the change in the house.

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  12. I hate good byes. Wouldn't mind having a little bit of Audrey in me when those times occur. I can get very emotional.

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  13. My son has had to deal with a few hard goodbyes.... The death of a close family friend who just accepted my son for who he was, was the most difficult. He cried for quite sometime as he had lost a true friend. But young children in general do not have a concept of death and the forever part of it. Look at all the cartoons and kids shows and how they deal with death. The characters keep coming back. The autistic individual doesn't always process things at the same time and speed as NT people do. It was months later when my son cried for Uncle Stan (the close family friend who died). It was that moment that I realized sometimes we just have to let them catch up....

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  14. The goodbyes are weird. When we had a death in the family and we told him, he literally asked to play computer---like nothing happened. I know he got it but how to process and then express it is/was a mystery to him. He occasionally mentions it but like all emotions its a hard thing for him--like it's just out of his grasp. Sigh.

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  15. That must have been really hard for you, not just losing your dad but also trying to figure out how to help her deal with it. I think you did the right thing, just letting it be.
    My son used to have a weird thing about crying when people left the room, even people he didn't know. One time he cried because the UPS man left without saying goodbye. Now he doesn't even look up when someone leaves and/or tells him goodbye. I don't know which is better from a developmental perspective, but this stage is much easier to deal with.

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  16. I agree with Christy - I think you did the right thing by not making it into a bigger deal with her. She'll handle it how she knows.
    I feel like maybe it's better that she doesn't have the difficulty with looking back. Yeah, it sucks for her teachers and aides. But think how awesome it is that she'll go to this new place and be excited for all the people she'll meet.

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  17. It IS difficult for teachers to let go of the children they spend sooo much time with. It's extremely hard when parents take their kids out of school without even saying goodbye, but it happens more than you might think.

    I'm sure that hearts will be breaking when Audrey leaves. She may not fully comprehend goodbyes, but her teachers, as sad as they may be, will appreciate closure.

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  18. I should add, Katie gets much more attached to animals than people. I can see her getting way more upset having to say goodbye to someone's dog than the actual person who owns it.

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  19. I get far too attached to some students, and am often a blob of emotional goo when I know it will be their last day with us.

    I'm sure Audrey will break hearts throughout her school career.

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  20. Julia hates goodbyes. She doesn't want to leave where ever. Coleman's a bit more staid, and I'm just not right. Last year I lost my three remaining grandparents, and for two of them I was in the room at the time, after a week or more of watchful waiting. People around me were crying, and showing real depth of emotion, but for some reason I never did. I'm sure to some I appeared pretty cold. I don't know. The grief is in here, it just doesn't come out the way people expect it to.

    I'm also not very good about goodbyes to people I probably won't see again, or often. Especially if I only knew them in one context. For example, co-workers. Even if I was great buds with someone, lunches out, secrets swapped etc.. for some reason, when I leave a job it's unlikely I'll ever see or talk to that person again, if it was just an office friendship. That probably makes me seem pretty callous. But I don't know, it's a two way street, right? If the person called or whatever, I'd probably love to get together with them, but they don't ever call, and neither do I, and life goes on.

    Ok..enough rambling.

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  21. Actually, Audrey might have the right idea. I mean, I'm OVERLY emotional. I wish I was a little less attached sometimes. I mean, geez, I need to learn to move on. Audrey already knows how to move on. And she will be a heart breaker, look at her, she's friggin' adorable!

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  22. We love Kitty. Haven't seen her in way too long either, and I live right around the corner. Must send her an email...

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