Summer rolled into our household like a lion. He pounced, snarling and roaring, teeth bared, readying to devour us whole. You see, this change in season found us knee-deep in new behaviors. Behaviors that took center stage, leaving my precious, sweet boy waiting in the wings, shrouding him in near invisibility.
We currently find ourselves nestled in the space between the regular school year and the upcoming summer program. This less structured time finds my boy battling to maintain control over his faculties as expectation and predictability melt away in the summer heat, leaving him overexposed and unprotected.
So, we work hard to maintain order, predictable order. We dust off the visual schedule. We restock the chew-tubes and straws. We type-up a list of Jonas’ sure-fire calming-down, settling-in favorites for the babysitter just in case. And as we prep, we take deep breaths, exhaling long therapeutic sighs because he hasn’t needed any of these things at home for some time now. But it’s a different time, a different season and we’ve watched our baby struggle desperately, sometimes fruitlessly, to maintain some semblance of control over the unpredictable, free-frolicky nature of summer.
Yet, no matter how much we prepare, we’re often grasping at straws because no matter how organized and planned out our day is, it simply is not the structured school day that my boy has grown to find comfort in, to crave.
Additionally, this season is ripe with highly preferred objects and items that send my boy into dysregulated sensory overload.
Motorcycles whip by us everywhere we go. Landscapers and regular folk with their weed-whackers, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers dot the scenery on our daily travels. My boy who would do just about anything to see, touch, and feel the vibrations of such items loses himself to the hum of their engines. They cloud his mind, creating tunnel-vision, feeding a unquechable thirst that lies within him. A thirst that he cannot regulate, one that I feel largely helpless in mitigating as these items pop up unexpectedly here and there, sending him back into a downward spiral of sensory dysregulation, fueling a fight or flight response. This response that largely takes the form of fight finds my boy completely overcome by his senses and emotions, unable to control the simultaneous angst and unfettered joy that these items elicit from him. And in those moments we lose him. Our typically tranquil and lovable boy, our boy who bounds and bounces about in a flappy rhythm, loving those about him, happily drinking in the scenery fades, replaced by an overwhelmed, swiping, hair-pulling mess of behaviors. Behaviors that take the place of the words he cannot reach in those moments, placeholders for the competing emotions tugging at his seams. Placeholders for unspoken self-expression that if vocalized might sound like: “I don’t like it!” “This is so exciting!” “I can’t do this!” “Why do I feel this way?” “Let me at it!” “Help me!”
And then there is the inevitable onslaught of new friends, teachers, therapists, babysitters, classrooms, situations, schedules. The sum total of which leaves our entire family wishing away the summer, longing for the colder weather, the predictable comforts that the fall will bring, and the return of our beautiful, joyful cherub.
And so in the meantime, we weather the storms as they come, ride the waves that feel as though they could drown us, we maintain order and structure as best we know how, and keep our baby close to us as we navigate the unfamiliar, unchartered territory of summer together.