Many people ask me about Gavin’s biggest struggle. However, I realized recently that I have been answering with my biggest struggle with Gavin. I have consistently told people that it is tough that he is still non-verbal. Upon reflection though this isn’t really frustrating for Gavin, anymore. He has learned how to communicate with us through sign language, communication boards, and gestures. He even has about 20 word approximations that we as family members understand. He doesn’t appear to get as frustrated, because he has discovered his own resources to try and communicate with us.
What frustrates him is when we try to change his routine. Gavin is used to things being a certain way on a typical schedule, and deviating from that really doesn’t make sense to him. A couple of weeks ago I had a battle with him to try and wear new shoes. Now this is a battle we had experienced before but I thought this time I would win. I bought him the exact same grey converse that he had been wearing for the past three months. In fact, I bought several pairs of this shoe in varying sizes so that we could avoid the tantrums in the future.
Last week, as the temperatures were finally starting to increase, I took on my next battle with Gavin…shorts. After one kick to the face and one to the stomach, I finally got him in the shorts. He sat in the middle of the room for about five minutes (it felt like 5 hours) and cried. I finally held him in my lap, rubbed his back, and pulled out some trains to distract him. By the time I left for work he seemed like his normal self. About two hours later I received a message from his nanny that he was very angry that day. He was kicking people and items and didn’t want to engage in activities. This didn’t sound anything like my happy boy.
I told his nanny to grab a pair of pants from his room and show them to him. She said once she gave him the option of wearing them he instantly gave the sign for “me”. She quickly put the pants on him and within seconds his demeanor changed. He calmed down and started to snuggle her during his break. No more kicking or fighting.
I have been very aware of Gavin’s sensory issues for awhile now. For instance I know he can’t wear shirts with tags, he strongly dislikes polos or button up shirts, jeans, pants that make swishing sounds, and other items. I have respected all of those boundaries because there was no sense in making him uncomfortable, but for weather appropriate clothes I pushed. I pushed and I should have been listening. I was telling myself that he was miserable in pants in the heat, but the reality is he was miserable in shorts. He is also uncomfortable in sandals/flip flops. These items are not a part of his routine and I am taking his little bit of control away.
I realized last week, that if the change is absolutely unnecessary, then I need to listen to Gavin. I need to be more understanding of Gavin and stop trying so hard to have him conform to our standards. I need to start seeing and feeling the world through Gavin and stop trying to make him see it from my point of view. He’s already taught me so much, I have no reason to resist him on his vision.