This graphic has been inspired by my dear friend, Jennifer A. Janes. She suggested this be put on a shirt after I told her part of this story. I made it purple for her Princess Roo and orange for D.
As I’ve said before, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders generally perseverate (obsess) over certain things. These obsessions also cycle, for D they seem to cycle seasonally. They drive every moment of his being, every breath he takes is driven by the obsessions. When they are not able to be adequately pacified, the anxiety builds in a way that a neurotypical person would find to be completely unrealistic. When the obsession driven anxiety is high, the smallest thing can send him (and my understanding is most children on the Autism Spectrum) over the edge. It sends them straight to the point of major meltdown. Crying, screaming, flailing on the floor, kicking what’s in their way – meltdown.
And now, the rest of the story. ~ Paul Harvey
D’s current obsession is dancing, singing, and pretending to play his guitar along with The Wiggles and Doodlebops. He dresses everyone in the house like the character they are portraying, makes the big red car out of cardboard boxes and insists that the girls and Samoo sit in it, and then he starts playing. Once he has become bored with a certain set of songs, he searches incessantly for new ones and beg for ways to earn new dvds or song downloads.
Tuesdays are his busy day. He has occupational therapy at 9, school at 1, group therapy at 3, and karate at 6. By the time karate is over, if he has made it that long without melting down, I’m beyond proud of him. He earns tickets for good behavior, especially on Tuesdays. He generally trades his tickets in on money/gift cards to buy something pertaining to the current obsession. This time, he chose to purchase a Doodlebops movie from Amazon. This kills two birds – he gets what he wants and he gets mail – Amazon rocks!
As much as he loves to get mail, the anticipation of waiting is hard for him. Yesterday he was hoping that the movie might show up a day early because the last time we ordered a movie it did. So, he started getting rather melty at about the time that UPS should have shown up. This morning he started pacing the floors immediately wondering when UPS would be here. He wanted us to track the package, he wanted to know when they would come, he was on edge with everyone because the anticipation is more than he can handle.
Finally, Chad took him to the grocery store and I got the littles down for rest. The UPS man came while he was gone and I opened the package for him, knowing he would want it open and ready to watch as soon as he got home. Instead of finding Jammin’ With the Doodlebops, I found Happy Doodle Holidays with a packing slip that said Dance and Hop with the Doodlebops. I asked Chad to ask him which movie he ordered and of course, neither of the ones associated with the package was the right movie. D picked up on that from the conversation between Chad and me, so he immediately went into meltdown mode.
While inappropriate, it wasn’t the worst of meltdowns. He was having more of a two year old tantrum, stomping feet, growling, rudeness, and things of that sort. Apparently, while Chad was trying to diffuse the situation an older lady walked over and said, “You need to learn how to behave little boy.” In the heat of the moment, he retorted with, “You need to shut up!” Was it appropriate for him to tell the lady to shut up? No, however, one thing we have dealt with most of his life is well meaning people trying to help by getting into the middle of the situation and and causing the situation to spiral further. I feel sorry for the lady today, she was probably appalled that he would act that way, and then that he would talk to her that way. On the other hand, like Chad said, sometimes people just need to mind their own business.
This is autism. This is not some spoiled rotten little brat who doesn’t know how to show respect towards adults. He does, but when his anxiety and anticipation is high, he cannot help it!
So, on my end, I was trying to take care of the situation with Amazon. I called once, thinking that the Dance and Hop with the Doodlebops was the movie we were supposed to have been getting (let’s be real, they’re all the same to me). I explained the situation to the spectacular customer service agent at Amazon who helped me order that one and refunded us for the one we had ordered, plus told us to keep the holiday movie so he would have something new to watch over the weekend. I was thrilled with their customer service and could not have been happier!
When Chad and D got home, another meltdown ensued. Why? Oh, because the Dance and Hop with the Doodlebops was the wrong movie too. OYI!? So, we calm D down and then I ask him to show me exactly the movie he had ordered and I called customer service again. This time I got a gentleman. Again, I explained the whole situation that D has Autism and because of the mix up had a complete meltdown x2. This time, rather than being compassionate, the guy LAUGHED!!!
I immediately asked why he found it funny that my child with autism had a meltdown and was upset. I asked to speak to someone who could be understanding and get the job done and he immediately apologized profusely. He said he was very sorry, he has kids, he knows that it’s hard to deal with their meltdowns, but that the way I said it was kind of funny. He asked me to please allow him to help me and because I did not care to tell the story again, I said ok. And, he did help me! He cancelled the order from a few minutes before, gave me a $5 credit on the correct dvd, and gave me overnight shipping for free.
And then? He apologized again, told me how sorry he was, and that he would be more understanding for his customers in the future.
And you know what? When the survey came from the transaction with him, we gave him a good report. You know why? That’s what awareness is about. While I was frustrated in the heat of the moment, I had the chance to teach him just a little bit about Autism. He apologized, he went above and beyond to help us correct the problem, and he apologized again. I wish I could call him and apologize for getting aggravated with him to begin with. It was not a Christ-like response and I hope the next time it happens, because it will, that I remember this and react differently.