Friday, February 29, 2008

The Big Trade-off

Earlier today I was visiting with another ASD mom I know. Our sons are the same age, both have autism, but they are completely different from one another. Where her son is small and agile, JJ is large and awkward. Her little guy has an incredible vocabulary (which uses to talk in detail about his current obsessions, but has limited conversation skills) and Jacob is nonverbal. The other child doesn't want to be touched, ever, and JJ needs to touch and be touched often. JJ calms with brushing, joint compression, and similar physical input, but my friend's son will have a 2 hour tantrum if someone touches his head.

Where does one set of issues become harder than the other? Would I trade off the cuddling to have him actually speak? Speaking would make getting along in the world a bit easier. JJ's affection could be a problem as he is in the community more. But affection is a huge blessing and way to connect here at home. I'd be very unhappy if I could not hug and kiss my child, like my friend can't do with hers. But I'd give a arm to have him learn to speak and tell me he when he hurts.

Having a small child makes hygiene and tantrums much easier. How nice to be able to pick up your child and remove him from a situation that is negative. Carry him out of the store when he throws a screaming tantrum in the aisle. But, on the other hand, JJ's size gives me a little peace because he can defend himself. When I think forward to when he is a teenager, and knowing how cruel kids can be, I have fantasies of JJ shoving his way through the kids who are making fun of him. Maybe he will be less of a target to predators (boys with developmental disabilities have a higher likelihood of being molested or sexually assaulted) because he can fight back.

I never have to force feed him, convince him to eat more than two items, and worry that he is undernourished, like my friend does with her boy. But I have to be aware 24/7 when JJ is getting into the kitchen, barricade the fridge with my body, and stress about all the risks that come with being obese.

I try to weigh the differences, and think about how our lives as mothers of kids with autism are so similar, yet so completely different. I come to the conclusion that JJ is the way he needs to be. For me and my family, he's the best fit. We have our struggles, but at the end of the day we can kiss him goodnight. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Catch me if you can-

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