Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Making Sense

I don’t know at what point we stopped cracking the video or digital camera out to record our kids’ events, holidays, and parties. It was a long time ago. I think we got to the point where we were so stressed about capturing the moments on film we were not enjoying the actual moments! So, the camera sits in the closet. We have a few “videos” (or are they “digitals”?) of the kids before we moved away from Charleston, SC. These are precious: two little toddlers in our gorgeous, lush backyard, McKenna drawing her first (of many famous) pictures on her Magna Doodle, my grandfather when he visited.

I remember watching some random footage of the kids outside on a spring day. We had reviewed these images before for the “ah” effect. You know, “Ah, they are all so cute”. On this occasion I felt I uncovered a mystery. I asked Tim to rewind a certain spot: Wylie’s Asperger-behaviors were all over these spring images. Like a forensic scientist traces clues backwards from a crime scene or an event, I examined these old scenes with new eyes and saw a world of evidence supporting Wylie’s Asperger-ness.

For your consideration, ladies and gentlemen, I present Exhibit A: we were all outdoors and the kids are running and rambling back and forth in front of the camera. Wylie moves rhythmically (even as a two year old) in a pattern that is sometimes still evident. He scadoos, smokes his fingers, hums, and remains detached even when the other two children are involved in daddy’s videography. More poignant is the footage of their 2 year birthday party.

May I present, Exhibit B: there were six to eight adults and as many children—all familiar. Yet, during this selection, Tim is carrying Wylie on his shoulders for a portion of it and you can tell he (Wylie) is completely out of sorts. He puts his head down behind Tim’s avoids eye contact, cries and whimpers. Tim tries to have him taste some ice cream and he strongly resists the spoon and its chilly substance. You even hear me in the background explaining away his behavior to the other parents. What was obvious now to me (as the forensic-mommy-scientist), is that Wylie’s sensory perception was maxed. In the pictures, he is using every coping mechanism he has and it’s not working. Too many people, too many noises, too many voices. He crumbles and I end up taking him upstairs to put him to bed with one of his beloved blankets while Campbell enjoys the rest of the party.

Watching these scenes is difficult; the clues were everywhere. We just did not see them. Now, they made sense for the first time. And, the sense they made saddened me. My son was not experiencing “normal” events in a normal way. His brain did not allow him to do so. There we all were almost forcing him to enjoy things he found terrifying--or at least incredibly uncomfortable. It would not be the last time my eyes would fill with tears at the thought of how much he went through before we began to understand him. Reviewing the evidence made me sad; but, it also ushered in a new compassion for him and for all kinds of different people. I began to see evidence all the time and became quite accustomed to viewing the world through an Asperger lens. And, just like Alice in Wonderland, I found looking through the glass irresistible.

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