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Things a child with Autism should not overhear

I somehow developed an inflammation of the nerves in my right shoulder and neck area. It had bothered me for a few days, maybe a little over a week.

I thought it might resolve itself, but when several generous doses of over-the-counter ibuprofen didn’t really touch the pain, I decided it was time to see a doctor.

Of course the doctor wanted to know how it happened, and I was not sure.

At first I thought it was a repetitive strain injury from all the work I do on my computer at a desk that is not quite ergonomically friendly.

The I remembered that at about the same time as the pain started, Autism Dad and I had managed a Navigator meltdown that included physical restraint so that he would not hurt himself.

“It is possible that could have done it,” I said to Autism Dad on the phone from the clinic. “He is getting bigger, I am getting older. Maybe I pulled something and was just too focused at the time to realize it.”

Unbeknownst to me, we were having this conversation on speaker phone and the Navigator was in the room.

The Navigator can frequently see the world in a very black and white way, and we work hard to craft our communication with him in such a way that he does not catastrophize and jump to negative conclusions.

It can be very challenging because sometimes we can’t anticipate what might lead to negative conclusions – such as getting all A’s equaling more work, in his mind.

Moreover, we don’t want him to inordinately blame himself for things that can be out of his control, like meltdowns. There is a very fine line we communicate: That he take responsibility for recognizing the meltdown is coming and doing what he can to stop it, but not to blame himself for melting down.

In this case, the potential negative leap was easy for him to make – Mom got hurt because of my meltdown – or worse – I hurt Mom – neither of which were true, and definitely not when I wasn’t sure how it happened.

It could have been very hard to convince the Navigator that my injury wasn’t his fault.

I cringed when I realized that my conversation with Autism Dad was not private and quickly changed the subject, asking them what they wanted to do for dinner when I got home. Autism Dad and I talked about our dinner plans and then I asked the Navigator what he wanted.

“What?” he said loudly. “I am sorry, I wasn’t listening.”

He had not been paying attention to any part of the conversation. He had not heard our discussion of my injury.

Thank goodness for the new Minecraft update that had consumed his focus while Autism Dad and I talked.

And next time I will definitely ask if I am on speaker before I start talking about something that could unduly upset him.

Originally published on Autism Mom


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