School buses and garbage trucks are two of Gmail’s fascinations. He loves them, he researches them, and obsesses over them. He scours the internet for pictures of them and builds them out of cardboard boxes. He knows the important parts of them. The compacter part of the garbage truck is the hopper. Garbage trucks come as front, side, or rear loaders.
Since he was old enough to tell us, Gmail has been fascinated by school buses. He has played school buses, he has searched for and found school buses at the least obvious stores. Toy school buses had to have all working parts. There must be a stop gate and a stop sign. If not, he would make them. We must have gone through 500 flexible straws making stop gates for school buses – toys, cardboard, or otherwise. We have school buses that 7 years later still have straw stop gates. At some point, we moved from buying every school bus that could be found to him only building them.
The parts of the garbage trucks and school buses are only part of the picture. The picture being Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder. The diagnostic criteria includes persistent preoccupation with parts of objects. This can be seen in both the garbage trucks and school buses, as well as with High School Musical. It is ironic, I think, that this is one of the criteria since figuring out our children with ASD is done by becoming preoccupied with figuring out the parts of life that make our children tick, the parts that make them upset, make them happy, and make them, them.
One of the things that really upsets Gmail is having someone or something interfere with his ability to complete an activity in a way that he believes it should be done. He gets upset with the girls if they do not perform to his standards when playing HSM, he gets upset if he is coloring and he gets outside the lines, he gets upset if his homework has too many eraser marks. (Yeah, he’s a bit OCD, we get that. It’s part of the whole called Asperger’s/ASD.) This brings us to one of the earliest rages that he had.
Four long and short years after this incident, I can laugh about it. In fact, sometimes I find myself thinking back and getting a good belly laugh. Not at his expense, but at my own. Read carefully, there will be a quiz at the end (and if you have heard the story, no blurting out the answers ;)).
We lived in a house with a great back porch. There were beautiful french doors opening out to it, plus a door from the master bedroom to the back yard. It was probably about 10 ft long by 4 ft deep (from house to edge of the porch). It made the perfect school bus with the 3 steps leading up to it. My beautiful little boy spent many, many hours playing school bus on that porch.
One beautiful day, being the conscientious bus driver that he was, he wanted all of his students to get on the bus in a safe and orderly manner. First he loaded Ellie, our English Bulldog, and then he called Chili, our dachsund. Chili was, if nothing else, disobedient as a rule. Chili ignored the summons and Gmail decided he must pick him up and put him on the bus. Chili hid under the porch (one of Gmail’s fears is creepy, crawly things). Since Chili was uncooperative, he came in the house and asked me (begged and pleaded with me) to put Chili on the bus.
Before I go on, let’s picture the back porch.
Now, he came through the kitchen doors and asked me to please make Chili get on the porch. I had no idea he was playing bus when he asked me to put him there, so I called Chili, picked him up, opened the door from the master bedroom, and plopped him on the porch.
That was the moment my baby fell to pieces. It was not the first temper tantrum by any means. It was not the first time we’d had any issues or concerns. Goodness no, I remember sitting on the playground during recess when he was 2 talking to fellow teachers and asking them, “Is this normal?” I was generally assured that it would get better, he was just testing my patience.
Gmail fell on the floor, he started crying, thrashing, kicking, screaming, yelling at me. He could not form a complete sentence to explain his feelings or frustrations because he was so upset, but he could sure kick and throw things. He got up from there and went down the hall to his room. He began throwing things, still screaming and yelling at me. I was, after a couple of minutes that seemed like forever, able to get to him and restrain him. I was able to hold him and keep him from destroying anything else, hurting himself, Spike who was just a couple of months old, or me. When he finally calmed down, he went back to normal life, while I still wondered what on earth had occurred.
Later, after he was able to discuss what happened, he told me exactly what I’d done wrong. I had to play that picture over and over in my head to figure it out, but once I did, I thought, “Duh! I should have known that!”
Since then, we’ve had many other issues come around that have caused meltdowns, tantrums, and rages. Some are much easier to figure out what precipitates them, others are much more difficult. Whatever the case, I can assure you that in some way, big or small, it’s because of part of a whole, part of whatever he is doing did not go the way he envisioned.
What did I do wrong when I put Chili on the bus? (answer will come in a blog post in a couple of days)