Saturday, December 4, 2010

Here Comes the Rain Again

If you want to see my son Jacob completely lose his shit, if you want to see him totally fall apart, weeping and wailing like his puppy just died (no we don't have a puppy)?

Get him wet.

Splash him from a water fountain.  Or better yet?  Spill an entire glass of water right down his front, completely soaking him to the skin through his shirt, pants, and underwear.

To make it even better?  Have it be the last clean short sleeve school uniform shirt in the house that he was wearing.  And have the school bus coming in five minutes.

We might have done that the other morning.  Yes, we did.   And I'm amazed the upstairs neighbors didn't call the police.  (Glad they're friends of ours and very understanding).

And the funny thing?  Jacob LOVES water.  When he's naked or in a bathing suit.

Jake takes long baths and has the time of his life playing in the tub.   He swims like a fish, will spend all day in the pool, laughing.

But get two drops of water on his street clothing?

Screams like a banshee. Will not be consoled. Must be immediately stripped of said wet clothing and changed into dry.

Even in the summer when its 102 and is cooling him off nicely, will dry in 5 minutes.  That's 5 minutes of screaming bloody murder, folks.  Now you know why if you ever see me out on the street with Jacob, you will see one of us carrying a rather full backpack.

Because, Jacob, while being more flexible, embracing of new experiences, less rigid than 99% of his brethren on the autism spectrum? Still has a few specific things that will send him over the edge. Like getting his clothes wet, even the teensy, tiniest bit.  Like becoming thirsty or hungry, even the teensy, tiniest bit.

So with our boys at age 8 we are not yet the light-hearted, light-packing folks, the parents of older kids who can step out of our apartments with nothing but our bodies and a few dollars in our pockets, tripping along the sidewalk, confident that anything suddenly needed can be purchased along the way.

No, we still travel heavy, like the parents of infants and toddlers who must anticipate and pack for a multitude of possible scenarios.

It always comes as a surprise when something freaks Jake out because it is so out of keeping to his regular M.O.  Jake's particular variety of SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) is mostly hypo-sensitive, that is his brain under interprets the information from his senses, needing MORE rather than less input/information to make sense of his environment.

Thus Jake is a "sensory seeker" and excited by the new, by the big and bold.  He is happy in a noisy crowd that would cower his hyper- or over-sensitive counterparts on the continuum.  So we go out a lot.  Feed his hungry brain.

It appears there is one sensory sensation he is not seeking: wet clothes.  But I think the root of the problem is not sensory, it's emotional / developmental.  And it connects to his language processing differences, to boot (as seemingly nearly everything about Jake does).

The big issue is that when he gets water on himself accidentally, it's because of some sort of accident or mistake.  He will often say "This is bad" in a quavering voice before he totally loses it.

And at the core?  Jacob still doesn't understand the difference between something feeling bad to him and himself BEING bad.  And because this is all such and abstract concept, the difference between feeling and being, Jake feels like he IS bad when he is wet.

And it just breaks my heart over and over again as I hold him while he sobs and I try to get him to calm down, to understand that it is really no big deal.

I can say "It's just water, we all get wet, you'll be dry in a minute..." until I'm blue in the face.  I have even splashed myself on purpose to show him how casually I regard getting wet.  But it does no good.

He will get over this when he is ready to get over it, when some new understanding dawns.

And until then?

I hold my boy and get a bit wet myself as his tears cascade over me.   I fetch him clean dry clothes and make all it right with the universe again.

Until next time the rains come down.


  1. So hard. And of course these things only happen five minutes before the school bus when there is no viable, quick solution to reach for. Juggling fail. And you only ~wish~ you had the luxury of loosing it yourself.

    Since it's such an unpleasant thing for Jake, would some kind of self-soothing, self-hypnosis like technique like breathing excercises and visualization be helpful to get him through til the problem is solved? My son (undiagnosed, very mildly sensory seeking, slightly inattentive add, below average motor skills) has really enjoyed visualization CDs like the ones on ... he listens to them sometimes on the way to bed -- especially while he was going through a phase where it was hard for him to settle down at bedtime. I don't know if something like that could or would work in a sensory crisis situation or if it's even a reasonable suggestion to try. It just seems to me that those things can be helpful when ~anyone~ is challenged and on the verge of freaking out. And kids on the spectrum tend to be very visual. I know you weren't looking for suggestions. Just thought I'd throw it out there.

  2. I love this line: "He will get over this when he is ready to get over it, when some new understanding dawns." - it is so true! I understand about these types of meltdowns and sensory issues, we've had experience with them at our house too!

  3. Poor kid!

    I know I hate wet clothes, so I can sympathize!

    Stopping by late from "Follow Friday 40 and over"- a little late, but here.......

    Have a great week!

  4. Oh yeah, I've dealt with this so many times. The kids I work with can tear their shirts off in the blink of an eye. and like Jacob they LOVE water, they LOVE the pool. But if their shirt gets wet? God forbid.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!