Mateo turned 4 on Saturday! He woke up excited and definitely knew it was his birthday. As we sang him happy birthday at breakfast, he sat smiling with anticipation and couldn’t wait to blow out the candle on his chocolate muffin. Throughout the day he would run around singing the birthday song from Sprout.
For his party, family, friends and neighbors came and he enjoyed running around with his best friend Joey. Mateo had so much fun playing with his sister, cousins and his friends. He seems to break many of the rules of Autism. But there are no rules. Autism is why he runs around in circles when he needs to calm himself down. Why he babbles. Why he can’t tell me what he wants without using icons most of the time. Why he jumps through the house. Why he throws himself to the ground. Why his brain is wired differently.
Before Mateo was diagnosed he often used to throw himself on the ground when we went shopping, or to dinner, usually when we pushed too hard and had a day packed with errands. I didn’t realize at the time that he was just overly stimulated, tired and out of his comfort zone. By throwing himself on the ground he was trying to literally ground himself, calm himself down and feel “normal”.
I took the kids to Chuck E. Cheeses for the first time for my niece’s birthday. My husband was out of commission and normally I would think he was faking it to escape the inevitable first trip to see good ol’ Chuck E. but he actually put a nail through his foot a couple days prior. So I decided to be brave and take Maya and Mateo by myself. Now this was not only his first trip to the craziest pizza place on earth but also the day after his birthday- where he had ingested an obscene amount of sugar including, cake, ice cream and countless lollipops (his favorite candy that filled the Pinata). He grasped my hand tightly has we made our way through the noisy games, children racing around and wall of adults at the kid’s parties.
He decided to go directly to the table and sit down at a seat, I think he was trying to process it all. Maya was ready to hit the games so I sent her off with her Uncle while I sat with Mateo. His eyes fixed on the automated animals as their eyes and arms moved to the music. He just stared for a while. Once he adjusted I talked him into trying out some games, then he was hooked! His favorite was this dog- that you pushed a level down and you fed him plastic balls and he would bark and say “Feed me!” in a low voice. He cracked up hysterically and probably used about half of his coins on that game alone. After about 1 1/2 hours- he tried to escape me racing around as fast as he could and not listening to me. Then it started again – I don’t think I had seen it for a very long time. He started throwing himself on the ground. So I would let him- just lay there- calm himself. As parents with children would walk around me eying me. I don’t care. I used to, before I knew what he was doing. I used to be so frustrated! But I just let him lay there until he was ready- I would give him my hand and lift him up. And he’d be better for a while. Then he’d do it again and I knew it was time to go, he was done and I was definitely done!
I realize with Autism- sometimes it feels like everything is getting better, and a lot of things are. But it’s still there, it will always be there for him. And I will be there to help him through it, as long as he needs me to.