What do you do when you don’t know?
The most difficult part of having a child with autism is the communication barrier. You might argue that behavioral difficulties (meltdowns, destructive behavior, etc) would be the most difficult part, but doesn’t all that go back to communication problems?
Squeaker doesn’t tell us what he does all day. He tells bits and pieces now, which is more than we used to get, but unless the teacher tells us specifics of what he’s done, most of what he says lacks meaning for us. We don’t know what he’s talking about. It’s hard to say what he does all day. I can look at his hands and wrists and tell whether it’s been a good day or a bad day. I can look at the bags of clothes and tell how many accidents he’s had. If it he mentions playing with the instruments I know, now, that he means a program on the computer that plays music. He doesn’t tell me anymore when he goes to Speech or OT, so I have to gather that information from the communication notebook. Everything I know I have to rely on the teacher for.
So when my instincts are telling me something isn’t right, things get kind of muddled. I’m relying on cues from my child. And what he does may mean something and it may not. So what do you do?
Here’s what I mean.
A couple months ago, a new TA started working in Squeaker’s classroom. She seems nice enough, but I don’t know. Something about her just rubs me the wrong way and I just can’t put my finger on it. When I drop Squeaker off, I have to walk him across the bus lot, and I meet his teacher (and TAs) just inside the elementary school at the back door, where there is a bench. When the new TA started working, his teacher was still consistently coming with both the TAs. During this time, Squeaker was behaving the same as he always has. Smiling, giving me hugs and kisses before I leave. All good.
The past few weeks, his teacher has, for the most part, stopped coming with the TAs. I’m not sure why. I’m sure she’s probably setting up the classroom and that the TAs are capable of taking 3 children to the classroom with them without a third person to help. The problem is that now, as soon as I walk in the door, Squeaker changes. He peers through the doorway to see who is sitting on the bench before we even get inside. When the new TA is there, he hides. And by hiding, I mean that he pulls his had down over his eyes, curls up on the bench, and throws a coat over himself. He doesn’t seem upset, per se, when he does it. Just resistant to looking at or interacting with anyone, including me. I can manage to get him to hug me before I leave, but it’s more difficult.
In the same time frame, he’s become more resistant to going to the potty. Time and time again, I’m seeing notes in the notebook that he’s having meltdowns because he doesn’t want to go to the potty.
Then you see headlines like this:
And this all scares of the crap out of me, to be honest. So now I’m trying to decide what to do. Do I ask the teacher about how he reacts toward this TA in the classroom when I’m not there? Do I say something to the TA? I mean…I don’t have any proof of there being a problem. I have a gut feeling and odd behavior from a child who exhibits odd behavior on a daily basis. He’s not showing any signs of abuse at home. It’s just this hiding thing that strikes me as odd. And I so wish that he could communicate with me. I tried asking him directly this morning, while he was doing it, why he was hiding, and he didn’t even answer me.
So, what do you do when you just don’t know? Because I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to this stuff. It will nag at me until I’ve puzzled through it. It’s bugged me all day. I can’t let it go. And it’s totally NOT okay that my child can’t even tell me about his day. Not when there are people out there who take advantage of children like him because they know they can get away with it. It’s not okay. Quite frankly, it terrifies me.