J has been rather anxious since he returned to school this term. I think there’s a number of factors impacting upon his stress levels from NAPLAN testing to general fatigue. Other issues like his peer relationships and puberty are impacting his anxiety levels as well. Growing up is pretty challenging for everyone but autism tends to make it just that bit more difficult.
So far J has had a pretty dream run with his peer relationships since he started school. Just recently however he is feeling unsure socially. Perhaps it’s because the gap between himself and his peers socially and emotionally is wide at this point of his development. He’s also not really interested in the things that many boys in his age group are interested in like sports. And although he really enjoys the company of girls, he’s certainly not at the point where he’s interested in girls in a relationship sense. J’s view on the girl thing – “Everyone else seems to think that the /s/ word (sex) and girls is really exciting … but actually it’s all just really terrifying!” Bless him. All we can really do is just remind him that these feelings are perfectly normal, and that as he gets bigger he might feel differently.
It’s hard for any parent to hear their child is having a tough time but I’m objective enough to know that this is part of the journey of growing up for many kids, on the spectrum or not. J says that often his peers make him feel like he’s invisible. He says he prefers to play his video games because when he’s in that world nobody treats him like he’s invisible (his words, not mine). I find this very hard to hear but I do think it’s very insightful.
The stress of the last week and a bit has resulted in a return to repetitive behaviours which have left their mark on J’s face. He has been so anxious that he has rubbed his chin over and over, and with so much pressure that he has bruised and grazed his chin. Poor little man. We’ve had to reinstate a few strategies known to be successful such as increasing his chewy food intake, giving him thick, icy drinks through straws and using chewing gum. Weighted products are also really helpful when he’s stressed.
In an effort to calm J’s mind, heart and soul, this afternoon I made him a long, deep bath and we had a long chat about some strategies he can try to help him connect with his peers. His teacher is beautiful and she is aware of what’s going on for him. Hopefully between us all we can support him as he negotiates his way through the year. It’s so important for every child to feel loved and supported at home, and that they always feel loved without condition. We try our very best to give the boys a soft place to land in our home environment and we are very blessed to be surrounded by an extended tribe who love, accept and support us as we journey along. Growing up will certainly present some challenges for my beautiful boys but I’m hopeful that the tribe they have around them will give them the love, belonging and connection they need to achieve happiness and well being.