“Let’s get dressed!” I say to my two year old daughter Beans. She agrees to finally get some clothes on after having spent the morning running around nude. Sounds like a simple thing to do, right? Getting clothes on?
We go over to where her clothes are stored and I begin making suggestions of clothing… all my suggestions are turned-down, met with “too tickly” or “too scratchy” or “too tight” or “too annoying” or “too irritating”. That’s right. My daughter is turning 2 years and six months of age soon and this is how she talks. She’s been talking in sentences since she was 14 months old. She’s articulate and she knows what she wants.. and DOESN’T want. Getting dressed is often a long drawn-out process and she eventually agrees to put on clothing she either wore the day before that she approved of, or one of a few select approved items of clothing from her vast of clothes on hand. Putting on shoes and socks takes about 15 minutes of negotiation to make sure they’re on “properly” and then 9/10 times she’ll have them off again as soon as she can manage it. For that reason, she doesn’t wear shoes often because I just can’t be fucked. But she loves to wear a pair of shoes that are too small and barely fit her foot though.. for the deep-pressure I’m guessing.
One simple activity; but add on five more steps first.
Bath times and shower times are fun, too. They’re not simple. Simple would be “turn shower on”, “get in shower”, “wash” and “get out”.
The shower is too hot even when it’s barely hot at all to my touch. Then it’s too cold. Then the soap is too bubbly and tickly on her skin. Then she’s worried she’ll fall over and slip. Then it’s too noisy with her sisters in the bathroom too. So then we get out. But then her towel isn’t tucked in properly and then it isn’t laid out in an exact precise square on the right rug. But I moved the rugs around this morning and now she’s screaming because the layout has changed.
Even something as simple as going to the library isn’t simple. Getting out of the car requires planning some days. Because: people. And scary hand-dryer. And what if we accidentally go during story time and there are lots of people and it’s noisy and she doesn’t know what is happening? She will either cling to me, crying, or she’ll lay flat on the floor and refuse to move. And we always need to make sure we see the fish and get stamps from the lovely librarian. So many extra steps.
Routines. Rhythms. Predictability and control.
These are things we are constantly wrangling in our lives. And Beans isn’t even officially diagnosed as autistic yet. Her assessment is next month and although I know it’ll be a sure thing because she’s a combination of my autistic husband and two of her sisters who are also autistic.. it’s still daunting. Because she’s who she is and she’s unique to everyone else.
And all the extra steps are exhausting.