Bend, but don’t break
I’ve been writing recently about little bits of progress here and there that Pudding has been making. I’m not entirely sure why this is happening, just natural development, or because of different therapies and accommodations we’re trying. For instance, with Pudding’s allergies, she is by default eating a gluten-free, casein-free diet, which may (or may not) be helpful for those with autism spectrum disorders. We finally found speech and occupational therapists who accept our health insurance, so she is back to having regular sessions. She just completed her third round of a home-based program to help with her auditory processing. Finally, she has been out of school, and spending more time playing with her brother and I.
At the same time, though, we have seen some regression in certain areas. Relative to her diagnosis, Pudding has generally been quite flexible, but that has changed recently. We even abandoned visual schedules (helpful for most ASD children) because she just didn’t seem to require a set routine, and was okay about not knowing what was coming next. It seems though, without intending too, we’d established a couple of routines. And once those routines were established, Pudding didn’t want to let go of them. At the mall, we’d go window-shopping, visit the play area, then go get something to eat. On Friday night when we we headed straight to the restaurant instead, we ended up dining with a very miserable Pudding. We went to the play area afterwards, and equilibrium was restored, but getting through the meal was much tougher than usual.
Also this weekend when she rode the carousel at her favourite playground, she didn’t get to ride the horse she specifically wanted, and sobbed the whole way round.
Somehow, she has determined that I’m the only person allowed to put her to bed, and mandates every night that Daddy will put Cubby to bed so that this remains the case. She also has to wear a princess nightgown, and a full-blown meltdown will ensue if she can’t find one. We go along with it, because bedtimes are a battle, and we’re weary of the fight. The happier she is upon getting into bed, the sooner she’ll go to sleep.
None of these instances are especially bad. In fact, some of you are probably reading this and wondering what I’m making a fuss about, that we have it so easy by comparison. We do, of course. Yet once we had a little girl who just would get excited about things happening in the moment. I miss that. She loved flying, so she was excited to go on a plane. She loved children, so she was happy to be around them. Increasingly I’m seeing more conditions being set, and order established to how events should occur. She is losing her flexibility. This scares me, not only because social interactions demand a certain amount of give and take, but also because we will be moving next year. Moving to a different country is going to require that she bends a great deal without breaking. We have to move, but now I’m concerned that she isn’t going to be resilient enough.
Developmentally, a lot can happen in a year. I know that two years ago I’d never have believed you if you’d said she had autism, or that she would be rigid or inflexible. There never seemed a child better suited to the Foreign Service lifestyle than Pudding, who loved the excitement of new places. Now I’m less certain. I don’t yet know where we’ll be living this time next year, but we might have a way to go before we get there.