Continuation of  previous post "A Torrent Through A Firehose"

Autistics may seem unemotional. True they don't emote like you or I, but they do have feelings. They feel as deeply as you or I, but often cannot express those feelings verbally or even physically.

Ironically, my son was extremely dialed into how I felt in tense or exciting situations. He would mirror my emotional state. So, for his benefit, I had to learn to be chill on the outside even when seething on the inside. Not an easy task for a Scot-Irish lady like myself who has little filter between brain and mouth. 

At about six years old, my son shoved a faux berry from a flower arrangement up his nose so far that he nor I could get it out. Fearing it could cause an infection, I took him to the nearby hospital emergency room (years before urgent care came along).  We were pretty quickly shown into a treatment room and the ER doctor popped in ready to remove the offending object from my son's nostril. However, the doctor asked me to leave the room. A big, red flag went up. I immediately knew this was going to be trouble. I declined to leave but agreed to stay out of the way.

Okay let me set the stage. Here's my autistic son in a strange place, with a strange man talking to him with a thick accent (the doc was either Indian or Pakistani, can't recall which). The more the doctor talked the more my son became agitated.

 I wanted to intervene but held back. The nurse in the room asked my son to lay down on his back which he did, but when the doctor who had a light on his forehead holding a pair of forceps reached out to hold down my son's head, my son immediately began squirming and crying out. This annoyed the doctor who instructed the nurse to hold my son still. This made my son struggle even more. My son had had enough and so had I. 

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I said moving to the examination table. "Back off. Let him up". The doctor objected. I glared at him and in a low voice hissed that would hold my son still so he could do his job. My tone apparently didn't give the doctor room to argue because he didn't continue with his objection.

My son sat up. I got in his face and said in a matter-of-fact, calm but MOM tone of voice, "You're going to sit in my lap and let the doctor put those big tweezers up your nose and pull out that berry. It's not gonna be pleasant and it might even hurt a little. So the next time you think it's a good idea to shove something up your nose, DON'T. Got it?" My son sniffled a little but nodded. "Good," I said then plopped him onto my lap holding his little hands in mine while the doctor extracted the offending faux flora. 

I was annoyed more at the doctor than my son. However, once my son was admonished and told what to expect he did better. I was not about to stand by and let the situation get out of control. If my son melted down, there would be no way to get the offending foreign object out of his nostril. So I had to rein in my natural irritation. I knew my son was sensitive to my emotional state. So if I had become outwardly upset, he would have reacted much worse to the situation. 

 He was about 8 years old when a friend of mine was nice enough to give me tickets to see the St. Louis Blues. The friend had season tickets and the seats were on the ice in the corner near the goal which the visiting team defended twice. Anybody that knows hockey knows the corners are where some of the best hits happen. This was my son's first game and first time ever seeing the game of hockey played so he was clueless. I intentionally left him that way.

We settled into the seats while the teams warmed up on the ice. My son was well provisioned with a large soda and big bucket of popcorn which I had him hold onto. But I made sure his drink remained in the cup holder. Minutes into the game, the first clash of players in the corner happened right in front of us, startling my son. Popcorn geysered into the air and rained down on his head as well as my lap.

My reaction to the popcorn cascade?  I started laughing. His reaction tickled me. Seeing my amusement, he also began to giggle. He exhibited a little angst about the mess he had made with the popcorn but that was quelled once he was reassured someone would clean it up later. He happily resumed watching the game munching on the popcorn that hadn't gone airborne.  Every hit in the corner after that elicited a giggle from him and a smile from me. However, this strategy could seem callus on occasion.

At 10, he took a spill while riding his bike and went down in some gravel. He emerged with a nasty scrape on his forehead that bled into his right eye temporarily blinding him. He freaked out, bawling and shaking so badly the neighbor kid practically carried him to the house. I dismissed the neighbor boy with a thanks telling him my son was going to be fine.  The neighbor boy looked closed to tears himself. He was a bit older than my son and I sort of felt bad for him since he was white as a sheet, but I figured both he and my son would live. 

I got my son to the bathroom and began clean up on the injury. As I cleaned up the wound, I could tell he wouldn't need stitches. I told him as much but my son wasn't calming down. I began to worry he was going to hyperventilate. 

"Why are you crying so hard? Does it really hurt that bad," I asked Between hitching breaths he weakly said, "No". 

"Then what's the problem?" He began crying even harder. Then something dawned on me. I called him over to the sink and said, "I want you to look in the mirror. Look at yourself." He did. The scrape he'd earned from the tumble from the bike was raw and ugly but not bleeding. "See, it's not that bad. It's not even bleeding anymore. You can see, right?" His tears had all but washed the blood from his eye. "Yeah," he replied as he began to calm down. "Good, then quit your bawling. You're gonna be fine." All heart, wasn't I.

The blood from the forehead gash momentarily blinded my son. It scared him and his fear was compounded by the neighbor boy's reaction to the situation. I learned later that the boy had restrained my son's hand when he tried to touch the affected eye only adding to my son's emotional turmoil. His emotional storm intensified due to the neighbor boy's unease and actions. I also think my son believed his wound was much worse than it was due to reaction of the neighbor boy. 

Nobody's fault. It just illustrated what I already knew. My son's emotional state--especially in tense situations--could be mitigated or exasperated by the emotions of those around him. 

This remains true to the present, but it's not as pronounced. The emotional state of others does not affect my son's emotions as much as it once did. He remains extremely intuitive when it comes to his mother and others in which he is emotionally invested. However, he deals with others' emotions much better now. 

He came home from a weekend with his father, and I was in a bitchy mood to put it bluntly. At that point in time, I had a low back injury and was in chronic pain.  Whatever doesn't kill you just makes you bitchier, right. So true in my case. I started complaining about this and that as soon as the poor boy hit the door. 

Any typical youngster, I think, would have become angry or retreated to his room from the verbal barrage spewing from his mother. Not mine. He came up to me, patted me on the shoulder and said, "Your back must really be bothering you, huh." That stopped me dead in my bitching tracks. I felt about an inch tall. He hit the nail on the head. 

So, his intuitiveness and sensitivity weren't all bad.  I'm just thankful his emotional well-being isn't at the mercy of the emotional state of others as much as it was when he was younger. 

I am also grateful that the judgmental looks often cast in his direction or the ignorant comments spewed his way when he'd exhibit self-stimulating behaviors like pacing or start finger flapping in public really didn't seem to bother my son. Not because he was unaware of such things but because it truly did not matter to him. Only the opinions of those my son is emotionally invested in count in his world. That list isn't very long either and is comprised mostly of relatives. 

When he was younger, I worried he might be bullied at school because of his unique wiring. No mother wants their child to be mistreated or pigeonholed as an outcast. 

But I needn't have worried. He likely was bullied in school or at least someone tried it. However, it's hard to bully someone who doesn't give your opinion any weight or credence. My son was truly a duck in the bullying pond.  He was, and still is, immune to peer pressure and cajoling. Verbal jabs and insults missed the mark simply because my son is not wired to care what an acquaintance or stranger thinks about him. Such social slights don't matter to my son at all.

My son is a grown man now and gainfully employed as a welder. Recently I noticed he had a restaurant gift card in his wallet and when asked about it, my son gave me his version of events.  

During his work shift, my son, trying to be helpful crimped some metal pieces that he found near his workstation. That was the wrong thing to do and the coworker, who my son perceived to be in his 50s, who had produced the pieces cursed at my son calling him some unflattering names. The coworker was upset that my son had ruined the coworker's product.

 I won't lie, my heart hurt a little for my son when I heard what happened. I'm his mother, don't think I'd feel any other way. Of course, I didn't let it show and calmly asked my son how he reacted to the verbal assault from his coworker. 

"I ignored him. He was just having a bad day." For my son, it was as simple as that. 

The coworker apparently felt badly about the incident. The next day or so after the uproar, the coworker presented a restaurant gift card to my son as way of apology. My son tried to wave off the gift saying it was unnecessary, but his coworker insisted he take it.  

"So, when are you taking me to dinner?" I quipped bringing the conversation to a close.  He just said, "Hmm" then walked away. Funny, he never did answer me. He has learned diplomacy, too, when it comes family members.

 Mothers want their children, no matter their age, to be well received and well treated. I think most everyone wants to be liked. Sometimes, in today's social media driven world, too much credence is put on popularity and what others think.  How wonderful that my son gets to walk through life without the typical angst most of us feel due to the negativity and derision of others. Overall, I believe that's a good thing for my son. And it has helped him live in our world, his way. 

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