Like Mother, Like Son
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
One of the reasons that more adults are now learning about their own ASD, after it went undiagnosed in childhood, is the fact that they are now having their own children, who are either diagnosed or exhibiting characteristics indicative of ASD.
My son will turn 4 years old in December, and by now we have noticed a few significant traits manifesting in him that point to his having a brain that is wired, to some extent, after my own.
He is highly verbal, overly social (thanks to Dad’s concerted influence :D), and so far able to successfully navigate a mainstream environment with just a few “quirks,“ much like me. For the most part, my intuition of what might be driving some of his internal workings (because my brain does the same thing to me) has led to our adapting proactive strategies that help him be successful. They are similar strategies that make any toddler successful, like timers, advance warning of transitions, and limited freedom of choice - they just happen to work exceptionally well for our son, as we can tell on the occasions when we forget or neglect to use them and suffer the consequences! :)
One of the less common interventions we have facilitated for him is the use of a sensory bracelet that he wears on his wrist. The bracelet has a tag on it, cut from one of his old shirts, and he uses it as an external fidget/stimming/comfort/sensory tool when he needs to.
This tool was an evolution that we came to over the course of about a year. I first noticed him fidgeting with tags (more than what babies do when they are learning sensations) while observing him in his gym class at school. He was about 2-and-a-half at the time. I watched as, faced with the less structured and more physically and socially chaotic environment of the gym, he lifted up the side of his shirt and absently groped for the tag he knew was inside on the seam. He would rub the tag between his fingers for a few seconds as he appeared to think about what to do next or how to approach his classmates as they ran around, then he would move on and dive into the chaos. My husband noticed him lifting up his shirt and going for the tag as he met new people at a restaurant.
As he got older, seeking the tag inside his shirt became too visibly distracting of a habit for mainstream acceptance, and we experimented with different ways to provide him with a more discreet sensory outlet to use when he needed to self-sooth. We tried a smooth rock in his pocket, but he didn’t take to it. So we tried a hand-held tag, harvested from a pair of too-small shorts, to keep in his pocket. That worked at first, but the problem was he had it out of his pocket and in his hand so often that he lost it in less than 24 hours.
So that’s when we fashioned a “taggy bracelet” for him to wear on his wrist. It’s still more visible than a tool he could keep in his a pocket, but it is less disruptive than him trying to get to the tag inside his shirt. For now, a toddler with a bracelet that he fidgets with at times has been a very helpful win-win solution - it provides him with the self-soothing tool he needs when presented with unfamiliar people or circumstances, and it fits within the realm of socially-acceptable, if slightly quirky, behavior.
We all have our quirks. I am looking forward to discovering and honoring more of my son’s quirks, just as I continue to discover and honor my own.