Why are you crying? Why are you sad? I see tears and when we have tears it means we are sad. Who made you sad? Did somebody make you sad? Did somebody hurt your feelings? What is it sweetie? Was it a girl or a boy that made you sad? Please try and use your words and tell Mommy. You can tell me anything.
Not too long ago this would have been a one sided conversation with yearnful looks, sad eyes and lots of hugs.
Johnny was sitting on the stairs in the front hall taking off his boots when I saw him quickly sweeping his hands across his eyes to hide tears. He had just gotten off the school bus so I fear that something happened at school today. I check his brand new communication book and the Education Assistant wrote about his wonderful happy day.
What is making you cry Johnny? What is making you sad?
“I’m okay. I’m not sad.”
Yes you are honey I can see it in your eyes.
Johnny finished his “coming home routine” and I tried to gently ask him again.
I asked him again if it was a boy.
“Yes.” What was the boy’s name? You can tell me because I am trying to understand. “Elise.” I was then confused because that was the name of his favourite friend at school. It must have been a misunderstanding. I know that other parents will say that that its not easy getting their children to talk about what happened at school and its even harder sometimes with boys but this is different. Johnny has Autism and is overcoming motor speech delay. Its is hard for him to speak even though he knows what he wants to say and then he is a five year old boy dealing with his expressing his feelings.
During the afternoon Johnny would seem okay but then he would start to get this look on his face and call me over “Mommy Mommy Mommy” and he would drag his hand quickly over his eyes and try to stop or hide the tears again. It was like he was replaying whatever that had upset him at school and reliving it and then we would have to have the same conversation again and again. At some point I asked him if someone had said something that hurt his feelings about how he was speaking or when he was reading. His face then finally surrendered to the tears he had been fighting back and I had to hold and comfort him for awhile. This is the part where my heart breaks and I want to cry too but I don’t. I swallow my tears and try and give him understanding and my strength.
As the day passed on Johnny would get into some repititious organizing of our stuff and be obsessive and relentless about doing it which I now know is he’s internalizing something that is bothering him and he is doing this organizing to feel better inside. I am trying to get him to name his emotions and deal with them instead.
When loved ones ask him how I know its “the Autism” or if Johnny is just being a typical five year old I think this is a good incident to point to. All children experience a peer saying something hurtful to them and get upset about it. But I find that because my son has Autism he REPLAYS what is bothering him over and over again as if you were picking at a band-aid and lifting it on and off over and over again. This happens over many hours and sometimes can lead to sleepless nights. Johnny has always had a big heart and is a very sensitive soul that takes things very hard so this only amplifies things.
So at times like this we turn to Johnny and Princess’s favourite TV cartoon called POKO.
Hug a stuffy
Hug him tight
Hug him until you feel alright
The next day I find out for sure that it was nothing that Elise said that upset Johnny. The EA wrote in Johnny’s communication book a little note about Circle Time.
“He loves to sit beside Elise.”
*Note Previous Post about Elise: https://sunflowercyn.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/he-has-a-girlfriend/