Aaron and I sat down to play Skip-Bo the other night. It’s a familiar nighttime routine for us on many days, this game of Skip-Bo. As Aaron came to the table, I saw that he was carrying two bowls. One was empty, and the other was full of Tootsie Rolls. These Tootsie Rolls had been a sweet surprise from our friends, Jim and Joyce, this past Sunday. Aaron was very happy to have been given such a huge bag of Tootsie Rolls, trust me!
As we sat down to play Skip-Bo, while I was shuffling the cards, Aaron began unwrapping a Tootsie Roll. He carefully took off the wrapper, and I then learned the purpose of his second bowl, the empty one. He placed the Tootsie Roll wrapper into the empty bowl. Soon he was ready for his second piece of candy, so he once again pulled on the wrapped Tootsie Roll, removed the paper, and carefully placed it alongside the first wrapper in the proper bowl.
If there was ever a picture of how Aaron organizes his life, it would be in his use of multiple bowls. I have blogged about this in the past, especially this piece from a few years ago. It so fully explains Aaron’s use of bowls. Put That in a Bowl!!
So as I watched him eat his Tootsie Rolls while we played Skip-Bo, I was once again reminded of how Aaron wants……no, he needs……his life to be just a certain way. We all do that to some extent, but for an individual with autism, those needs are ever more acute. The smallest disruption in routine and expectations can totally pull the rug out from under Aaron.
Providing some fluctuations in his day and in his life can actually be very good for Aaron. Finding the balance, though, is tricky. Giving him consistency while also guiding him through changes can be very challenging for him, and definitely so for all of us who are a part of his life.
The staff at Paradigm can most assuredly attest to this fact. They endure changing Aaron more than anyone. Aaron can be very up and he can be very down at his day group. Sometimes we see and know the triggers, and sometimes we don’t. They have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly from Aaron during his nearly 11 years there.
Aaron has been home this week with a bad cold. He totally loves staying at home and would do so every day if we let him. But like I said, Aaron needs to be away from routine and predictability in order to grow and to thrive. He has friends at his day group and staff that he loves, but the atmosphere there is active and sometimes loud. He can’t totally control his environment there……what people say or do……what activity he will participate in that day……how he will feel. So for Aaron, staying home is much more preferred, but is not at all what he needs to do every day.
He was well enough to return to Paradigm yesterday, on Friday. I could tell he didn’t really want to go……didn’t want to think of leaving home for the day. I was encouraging Aaron to keep a good attitude as I poured his morning coffee under his watchful eye. He watches to make sure I do the coffee job JUST RIGHT!
“Mom,” he finally said. “I’m not trying to go MAD! I’m trying to go HAPPY!”
Wow! His insights floor me sometimes.
He really wants to process life correctly. Sometimes, however, it’s just a huge stretch for him to be able to do that.
For Aaron, it’s Tootsie Rolls in one bowl and Tootsie Roll wrappers in another bowl.
He can control this business of candy and candy wrappers. He can’t control, though, his atmosphere at his day group. Some days it’s just too much. But we must gently push……must keep trying……must understand how hard it can be for him.
He had a great day yesterday at Paradigm. They went to watch Rogue One at the theater. Well, I’m not sure if it was a “great” day, but Katie told me that it was a good day……and to me, that’s great.
Gary and I had Aaron with us at Sam’s on Monday. I was checking out the asparagus when Aaron walked up to me with a bouquet of flowers, his face all smiles while Gary watched in the background. Gary had pointed out the bin of flowers to Aaron, and Aaron instantly wanted to buy me some. We’ve watched those Iris’s this week, some blooms falling off as they wilt while other buds burst into bloom.
Again, just like Aaron. We wait for him to grow……hopefully to bloom……and in the mean time we enjoy him and his unique, colorful life that we see every day.
Candy and wrappers…….buds and blooms……it’s all part of what makes life with Aaron both challenging and beautiful.