One memory in that file was a period of aggression with my sweet little boy. I swear to you I was convinced these notes must have been mixed up with some other boy, because Ryan would never hurt anyone. He is a rule and law follower and hurting someone is against both. Most kids on the autism spectrum would not intentionally hurt anyone, even those kids that are much more severely affected than my Ryan. They do however become frustrated, scared and confused and may not be able to articulate it in the way a neurotypical child can due to language and communication deficits. Even today, when Ryan is frustrated, he can't get the words out in that moment. He can tell me later what was so upsetting to him, but in moments of fear, hurt or frustration, he can't process his feelings and articulate them at the same time. Much of this is do to his heightened fight or flight response.
The fight or flight response is a basic survival instinct in animals and humans. Wiki defines it as this: "In the human fight or flight response during prehistoric times, fight was manifested in aggressive, combative behavior and flight was manifested by fleeing potentially threatening situations, such as being confronted by a predator. In current times, these responses persist, but fight or flight responses have a wider range of behaviors. For example, the fight response may be manifested in angry, argumentative behavior, and the flight response may be manifested through social withdrawal, substance abuse and even television viewing." Well, there were no T-Rex's or other predators coming to eat my boy, unless you consider "killer bees" predators because rest assured he is convinced one day that will be his demise. FYI, he did sit on a bee's nest and was stung repeatedly and did not have a life threatening reaction (unless you count screaming and running into a parking lot which potentially could be life threatening), thus a potential bee allergy was disproven at Bumble Bee Hollow Mini Golf. I kid you not.
Ryan did fit the mold of Wiki's definition of the fight or flight response in current times. Fight response: Angry? Check. Argumentative behavior? Check. Aggression? Check.
Flight response: Social Withdrawal? Check. Television Viewing? Check. Running like a mad man from any sound or touch he perceived as harmful? Check. Needless to say, at the age of 3, substance abuse was not a concern (unless of course you are Drew Barrymore). It would appear that not only was Ryan's survival instinct intact, it was grossly overexaggerated.
figured many things out on his own. For example, he was ALWAYS at the back of
the line. Initially, I thought it was because he was a poky puppy and
transitioning from one activity to the next took him longer, but Miss M, our
fabulous Occupational Therapist at the time, informed me by going to the end of
the line he was protecting himself from getting bumped, pushed, shoved or
touched. Of course my heart broke a little, but at the same time I was proud of
him for finding his own way to cope. And of course I felt a sense of relief knowing that if a predator, such as a T-Rex, happened to stumble on the playground, chances were good that being at the end of the line when entering the playground would increase his likelihood of fleeing and surviving.
Ryan's other survival mechanism at daycare was social withdrawal. If those touchy, feely toddlers weren't going to respect his endless list of rules (it's ok if I touch you first but don't touch me unexpectedly, do not get paint, glue or any sticky art supplies on me, do not ever, ever, touch me on the head...ever), then he was going to avoid them at all cost. If I had a dollar for every time I prayed, "Please let him be playing with someone.", "Please don't let him be playing alone.", "Please don't let him be reciting Thomas the Tank Engine Videos." when I went to pick him up on the playground, I would be a very wealthy women. Sadly, almost every day, my prayers went unanswered. I'd find my boy playing under the slide, in the playhouse, digging in the dirt...alone. And on the occasion my heart would leap a little because there were other kids in the playhouse or under the slide with him, upon closer inspection they were only in the same physical location, no social interactions were occurring.
Although those moments were heartbreaking and why I chose to put them in the "Wow, That Was a Sucky Time Let's Not Think About It Again" file, my Selective Memory always remembers Ryan's face that lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw his Mommy had finally come to retrieve him from the messy, sticky, loud, pushy, shovy, touchy, scary world of daycare and the chubby arms that wrapped around my neck and hung on like his life depended on it. And in his mind, it did. I was and still am his safety net. I wear that title like a badge of honor because AWEnestly, there are very few people who know the warm, funny, smart, beautiful boy that hides behind the defensive wall his system has created to protect himself from a world that is loud, unpredictable and confusing. Ryan knew when he was 3 and he knows today, that Mommy will take on any T-Rex or butterfly that shows up on the playground and although his fight or flight response will kick into high gear, and chances are good I will find him hiding in the back of the van, his mommy will be there with a "squeezy tight", a butterfly net and a vanilla Jello Pudding to make his world again.