It’s been several months since Tyger had his initial visit from the health visitors who employed the tried and tested ‘wait and see’ approach to his suspected ASD. We had a second visit from a different health visitor a couple of weeks ago.
She was nice but almost immediately made the rookie mistake of assuring me Tyger made ‘really good eye contact’. This comes up time and time again when talking about ASD and it’s such an outdated thing to focus on. Whilst a child avoiding eye contact is certainly something to take note of, it’s just one of many many traits and behaviours that could indicate ASD but certainly doesn’t need to be present for a diagnosis of ASD (lots of autistic people make eye contact perfectly well).
I guess it’s the same with anything people start to become aware of and talk about. If you’re actually pretty knowledgeable on the subject, you notice the misinformation or incomplete information everywhere (you know, like when you hear someone discussing Jon Snow’s parentage and they don’t even know about the L+R=J theory?…anyone?…no?). I saw a thread on a parenting forum yesterday about a lady who sounded potentially autistic to me. However, another poster assured me she couldn’t possibly be autistic because she had a habit of massively overstaying her welcome and autistic people hate being in social situations so wouldn’t do that. This reminded me of when my mum initially took my ASD sister to the GP the doctor said, ‘The good news is it’s unlikely to be autism because she wants to have friends.’ This whole ‘autistic people hate being around other people’ myth is pretty pervasive but it is a myth. It’s true that the mishandling of social situations is a big part of ASD but an inappropriate social response/understanding isn’t the same as hating all other people! Of course you do get the stereotypical autistic person who just doesn’t like spending time with others and prefers to spend all day every day on their obsession but you also get the ones who desperately want to spend time with others but find social situations hugely stressful, the ones who enjoy being around other people but possibly don’t realise they’re being inappropriate or hogging the conversation, the ones who find one person they like and just want to spend all day with that person. It varies greatly as each one is different – almost like they’re, you know, people!
Now, Tyger loves people. He loves talking to people. He loves saying ‘hi’ to people in the street…every single one of them, regardless of whether they say hi back or look at him or acknowledge him in any way. He loves it when delivery men come to the door and will invite them in (‘come in, come in!’). He loves talking to people in the doctor’s waiting room and will make instant friends with some unfortunate little old lady who he’ll then demand stands up and goes with him to the children’s books in the corner. He loves it when one of my sisters has a friend round and will immediately attach himself to the poor unsuspecting teenager and cry when they disappear to my sister’s bedroom. He loves people. Except when he doesn’t but that’s probably another blog post.
The health visitor seemed taken aback by his forwardness and bemused by his responses to her attempts to engage him in putting puzzle pieces into the right slots. My mum – who has extensive knowledge and experience with young children – said toddlers tend to fall into two groups when they meet a strange adult. They are either shy and unwilling to engage or confident and eager to please (which isn’t to say either group won’t end up cheeky/chatty/difficult etc. given a little time to get to know the adult). Tyger is confident and friendly…but also knows his own mind and will freely tell it to anyone and everyone. The health visitor asked him to put one puzzle piece in the right place so he did, whilst chatting away. She asked him to put the next one in place and he told her ‘no’ and started playing with the piece (it was a car) despite all her encouragement . She asked him to point out an animal in a book and he did. Then next time he indignantly told her it was her turn and refused to co-operate.
I don’t think she knew how to take him. I’m not sure she was convinced he has ASD but she’s referring him to a child psychiatrist anyway so it doesn’t really matter. The appointment will probably take months to come through but that’s fine. He doesn’t particularly need a diagnosis right now since he spends all day every day with me and I already know about his needs but since it can take years in some cases, I’d rather start the whole process now before he’s at school and might actually need the support a diagnosis would give.
Not that I always find it easy to support his needs. For instance, Tyger has sensory issues and one of the ways this impacts on him is he doesn’t like wearing clothes. In particular, he doesn’t like wearing jeans. I think the restrictive nature of them and the waistband are uncomfortable for him. I’d let him run around naked all day if I could. I like to think I’m a pretty liberal parent and nudity isn’t a big deal – or it wouldn’t be if Tyger could leave…himself alone. I know, I know, it’s totally normal and natural for kids to do some ‘fiddling’ and the like. As I said, I’m open minded. However, Tyger will play with his penis until it’s red and inflamed. He also started trying to put various things up his bottom. Now, I know he’s my first but I’m pretty sure the ‘let them explore their bodies’ attitude only applies so long as you don’t think doing so will lead to a trip to the GP (which it did) or possibly A&E.
So, for now at least, clothes are a must. But the fight of trying to get them on him in the morning and back on him after every toilet visit was tiring and he also learnt if he claimed he needed the potty he could take his trousers and pants off then run away (we’re in the UK so ‘pants’ are always underpants, not trousers). I tried jogging bottoms instead of jeans but whilst Baby Bear can only wear jogging bottoms because jeans are too tight to get over his huge thighs, Tyger is too skinny for jogging bottoms and they just fall down (the drawstrings on his age range seem to be decorative only and aren’t functional – I can only assume this is due to fear of strangulation, which is probably also why you can’t get mittens on a string anymore now I think of it). Dungarees caused more problems than they solved because he got very stressed out by the buttons.
He doesn’t mind his onesies at night, though, and often asks to wear them instead of clothes so I had an idea. I didn’t really want him wearing the ones he has for night during the day – partly because they’re quite thin and since he also refuses to wear socks he’d likely be cold and partly because I want a distinction between what he wears in the day and the night to help with a sleep association. I had a look on Amazon and eBay (I’m sure there are other places to purchase things but their existance has slowly faded from my memory) and found a fluffy tiger onesie. The fabric was similar to a Frozen blanket Tyger has, which he loves. He especially love to lie on the blanket when he doesn’t have any pants or jeans on and…well he really likes it.
The tiger onesie arrived and we were both excited I got him undressed and put the onesie on and…he went mad and told me he wanted his clothes on. After making a fuss about his jeans for frack knows how long, he was begging to wear them and refused to wear the nice soft onesie with no waistband. This sort of thing comes up a lot. Later, after leaving the onesie lying around for him to get used to (like how you introduce a new cat to an existing one slowly and a bit at a time) he said he wanted it on..woohoo!…over the top of his clothes…ah. I couldn’t help but think this was defeating the whole point of the thing and was ready to write it off as a failure but I think he gained encouragement from everyone’s reaction to how cute he was and the next day he allowed me to put it on him with only pants underneath. The Goram zip was a bit scratchy on his chest, though, so I had to add a t-shirt as well. And that’s what he’s been happily wearing for two days now: pants a t-shirt and his tiger onesie. No fights after the toilet and he actually brought the onesie to me this morning when he got up so I could put it on him. I’ve ordered a Gruffalo one in similar fabric but I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to wash the tiger one before it arrives. Evening laundry, perhaps. Or…I don’t know. I’m sure cleanliness is overrated.