The kids’ big gift this year is loft beds, but that requires some rearranging in their rooms. (My mother in law noticed that if we didn’t move Sam’s bed, he’d have full access to the ceiling fan from his current vantage point.) The overall purpose is to give Sam some more space in his rather small room, and I don’t see us getting out of that without doing the same for Sis. (Thank the pricing gods for Craig’s List, or we’d never be able to pull this off). The kids have both been begging for bunk and/or loft beds for over a year, and Scott and I have good reasons for caving in.
You don’t just take an autistic kid’s furniture and move it around willy nilly. Although it’s far from universal, many kids with Asperger’s react very badly to change in general and to change in their surroundings in particular. The results are ugly, and I’m not talking feng shui.
It’s not going to be so bad for Caroline. Without telling her about her present, I’ve been gearing her up for change for a little over a month now. I told her, “You’ve got a lot of toys you don’t play with anymore, and I know you’ll get new stuff for Christmas. Let’s go through your old stuff and donate what you don’t enjoy any more.”
“Oh that’ s great!” she said, and launched into some explanation of loving and giving to others that she must have learned at school. (It finished with having the spirit of Christmas in your heart, so I know she did not learn it from me.) So she’s all revved up to start in on her closets Friday and her bedroom Saturday, getting things fixed up for the Big Holiday.
Sam, though, is another story. He’s the one who both needs and wants the new bed most, but he is also the one most resistant to change. He’s been accepting of my little donation speech in a vague way, but he does not understand what I’m talking about. In order to hope he can enjoy his gift unreservedly, I served up an early shock this afternoon.
Today, while we were building with his Legos, I said “Sam, you need more space in here.”
“Yeah,” he said. He did not look up, so I knew he was basically ignoring me.
“Would it be OK if we took your big dresser out of here? You don’t have anything important in it.”
He studied the ‘big dresser’ which was really somebody’s entertainment center once. Its bottom drawer is missing, so there’s this gaping hole in the bottom where we crammed stuff. It had stacks of garbage we hadn’t bothered to sort on top of it. And the drawers were full of outgrown clothes. “Sure,” he said, and went back to the Legos.
Within an hour, I’d emptied the thing and Scott and I rolled it out to the road with a minimum of cursing at one another (mostly on my part – Scott favors the silent glower). Sam was pretty impressed with the new cozy hole in-between-things that had just opened up. But he needed to go take his nap.
I said, “I’m going to need to move the other furniture around, too” and I gave him an outline of my plans.
He was pretty busy arguing about the nap, and I don’t think he really understood, but he agreed to the changes long before he gave in about going out for his afternoon sleepy-car-ride. (He won’t nap in his bed. Hasn’t for months. He is almost past the need for this nap, but not quite. So we drive him around until he crashes, then bring him home and dump him on the couch.) While he slept, Scott and I pushed pulled, emptied and moved. Still, we were only half finished by the time he woke up.
All the toys were piled up in the middle of the room, mostly on the train table. His bed was on a new wall, as were his bookcase and ‘little dresser’, the latter of which which was Scott’s in childhood. Even before he saw this, Sam woke up mean (he usually does). Scott wouldn’t let him have candy for an afternoon snack, and things got vicious. The vampire teeth came out, we hauled him off to his room for a time out, and he transmogrified suddenly from an enraged beast to a shocked trauma victim.
He kept spluttering at me, trying to speak, but the words just weren’t there. Finally, he screamed, “PUT MY BED BACK ON DAT WALL WHERE IT BEWONGS!”
“It’s pretty upsetting when somebody messes up your stuff, isn’t it?” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, dissolving into tears and letting me hold him.
After a couple of minutes, I showed him how he already had a lot more room. We cancelled the time out and let him come and go all evening. Finally, at bedtime, he told Scott, “I like my new room with more space. It sure took me some getting used to, though.”
Just you wait until Christmas, buddy. You haven’t seen getting used to until you find out what your Daddy and I have in mind then. Hopefully, the big shock was today, when I moved it all around and insulted your senses. And hopefully, the next ‘getting used to’ will be joyful instead of traumatic. And if not? Well, we won’t toss anything important out on the street until after we get back from our holiday travelling, OK?