Nate is wired in a particularly interesting way. He either does or he does not do something. There’s no real in-between for him. And when he does something, it’s all out. When he was 3 months old, on one random day, he hit three milestones: he drank milk from the breast (I had been pumping until that time), sucked his thumb, and slept through the night. Just like that. When he started crawling, he only went backwards and then, one day, he went forward and crawled perfectly. When he walked, he didn’t practice. Sure, he cruised using furniture and stuff but, on his first try, he went from the fireplace in the living room to the dishwasher in the kitchen. First try. So, you can see that there’s a history of this all-or-nothing behavior.
It works in the reverse, too. Nate can master a skill and then suddenly stop doing it. Of course, there’s myriad classic autism regression examples that I could cite but it spills over into environments, too. About a year ago, Nate decided the shops in the mall were not ok. The mall? It’s fine. The shops? They’re not fine. If I approached a door of a store, Nate throws his legs open into the widest split possible trying to prevent us from fitting in the door. So now, the mall’s good for exercise and not much else. (Unless I buy him a dish of frozen yogurt….then he’ll go in stores…until the yogurt is gone.)
These changes sneak up on me, you know. Nate will do something one day and it’s difficult to discern if this is a forever behavior or something that he’ll only do today. I try not to give it too much thought (which easily breeds anxiety) but when patterns emerge, that’s when the trouble begins. About six weeks ago, Nate decided that the living room was no longer a space that he would enter. It was his favorite room with floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves with his toys, a chest of drawers filled with more toys, a comfy couch, a comfy chair, and the television. He also ate in there on a wee Nate sized table from his Mam. One day, Nate decided to set up shop in the kitchen. Chad and I thought it was cute. Oh, look. He wants us to bring his table into the kitchen because you can eat in the kitchen. That’s cute. But that wasn’t it: Nate was moving in to the kichen. And he has no plans of ever leaving this room.
There’s a den off the kitchen, which we lovingly refer to as the romper room, that houses Nate’s basketball hoop and a few toys. For a while, he used both the kitchen and the romper room but he’s slowly shrunk his circumference of acceptable space to just the kitchen, which has led to moments like this.
And meals like this.
Because the tile can get chilly, I moved Nate’s rug into the kitchen and sometimes he’ll play appropriately in there, like this.
But most of the time, the kitchen looks like this.
Nate will still watch the living room television…but only from the kitchen, like this.
And just when I thought Nate’s circumference of life couldn’t get any smaller, he does this.
Can you see Nate? He’s under the desk. With a hot dog, an apple, and twenty goldfish crackers. He took his dinner off his plate and stored it under there. And stayed there. Right there.
Now, let me be clear, Nate’s happy to be in the kitchen. Nate really likes the kitchen. And he’s fine upstairs, too. But we can’t figure out what massive change occurred — in our house or in Nate’s mind — that caused our boy to change his opinion about the living room and, to a lesser extent, the other areas downstairs. Not to mention, Chad and I miss the living room. Nate can’t ever be alone so we’re sitting on the padded rug in the kitchen or the well-loved couch in the romper room while we keep an eye on Nate. I haven’t watched the evening news in forever. And I miss the heat from the pellet stove in the living room.
Nate’s latest relocation spot — under the kitchen desk — was worrisome enough to prompt a home visit. Today, after school, Ms. Susie is coming over to check out the situation. (When I wrote about this on my personal Facebook page, a friend asked if Ms. Susie also wears a superhero cape and flies. Yes, friends. Yes she does!) We recently added a BCBA to Nate’s roster of in-school support, which will provide some in-home support as well, but she’s here to work on some other issues we’ve been having. So I hope Ms. Susie can help bridge the gap between school and home life, both of which effect the other, and can help us figure out a plan to help our entire home be occupied once again.
Once we get this under control, then maybe we can start working on this guy. It’s hard to work when Pete lounges like this on my desk….