(photo credit: Bia)
Every challenge, every stim, every meltdown we have worked through and helped my son learn how to feel comfortable with himself and the world around him. Sometimes, a few weeks or months after we have worked through a challenge, it would suddenly reappear. Then I fear regression. I feel like all our hard work and all the tears meant nothing. I feel hopeless. I just want to give up.
Simon struggles with Sensory Processing and that can affect literally everything in his life. Bath time used to be a fun experience and then one day, Simon just couldn’t do it. I don’t know what changed for him. Maybe it was the temperature. Maybe he didn’t want to get undressed. Maybe he didn’t want to be taken away from what he was just doing moments before. Maybe he couldn’t tolerate the feel of the water. All I did know was that even the mention of bath time would send him into a rage, screaming and kicking, pleading not to go.
We tried everything. We tried timers, motivational toys, super fast standing only baths, new sponges, new soap, new songs. Something eventually clicked and bath time was tolerated again. Actually, it was starting to be fun! It had been a long, emotional experience for all of us and I was so relieved to have one less thing to worry about.
A few month later, it started again…screaming and kicking to stay out of the tub. How could this be happening again? We worked so hard, I thought we were past this? How can I put him through this again? Should we try showers? How long can we go without a bath? I was devastated.
Then our brilliant teacher shared a phrase from Heraclitus:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice.”
In a voice a reassurance, she explained that although this appears to be the same situation, it’s not. He has already learned the skills he needed to tolerate and even enjoy bath time once before and those skills don’t disappear. We just needed to help him get back there.
Over the next few nights, we stayed calm and kept bath time short. We praised him for doing a good job. We were mindful of his sensory needs before and after bath time and adjusted what we could to help him acclimate. Eventually, bath time was accepted again.
Or teacher was right. This period of anxiety was much shorter with less severity in his outbursts. This experience felt like a blink compared to the first time. It’s the same boy, the same tub, but it wasn’t the exact same situation because he is always growing and changing.
I try to remember this saying now when old stims and barriers reappear. It’s hard to take a breath when life is so busy and the daily challenges of Autism are overwhelming. Everyday our children are growing and learning, and we are becoming better and more experienced parents. We are never the same river.
Previously posted at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine.
**If you have any concerns about your child, please discuss with their pediatrician or contact your local school district or Early Intervention center for an evaluation.*