The Pied Piper of autism

Tuesday, 8:30 a.m.
We are in the garage. I am sitting in the driver’s seat, trying to read a book to my four-year-old daughter in the backseat while my seven-year-old son with autism screams outside the window. It is a snow day and there is no school, and he does not want to ride with his sister to daycare. This is not part of his routine, after all. After trying to coax him for 20 minutes, I gave up. Now we are waiting for my husband to come home from work so he can transport our daughter.

“Stop reading that book! Please, stop reading that book! Audrey’s not going!” he screams. Over and over and over.

“Mommy, that yelling scares me,” my daughter says.

Her words slice deep. I swallow hard. I try to read louder. This is a power struggle. I am following advice and not engaging in the struggle. But my son screams on, and I can’t shield my daughter, either. Why? Why, God?

Thursday, 3:30 a.m.
Our son has awoken and my husband has gone to see what the problem is. He’s taking a long time so I go downstairs, too. Husband is rummaging in the dryer. Son has declared he wants different pajamas. It’s another power struggle we don’t want to engage, especially at this hour. So we look for the jammies at 3:30 a.m. Mercifully we find them. We go to bed, bleary yet stunned. These are our lives?

Friday, 9:30 a.m.
Still sick. I make doctor’s appointments and announce them to both kids. Son states he wants to go to the library after the doctor’s office. Since our schedule doesn’t allow that, I offer to take him to the library before the doctor’s, or later. In the afternoon. Son refuses to accept this. Cue the power struggle, again. Two hours this time.

I stay calm. I do not yell. I have yelled before. Lots of times. Now, I yell in reverse. My voice gets quieter and quieter the closer I come to losing it. I am doing the right things, or what I am told are the right things. I am not engaging. I am preparing him in advance of transitions. I am offering choices. I am accommodating his challenges wherever possible, even at the expense of others, others I love, too.

And I feel like one of the rats in Hamelin, following the Pied Piper of autism.

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