Until the age of 2 everything seemed to be going fine. I was hitting most of my major milestones and was one of the more affectionate toddlers you’d ever meet. But that was when there was a setback. One of the major issues those with autism deal with is sensory overload. For me, this was the time when we saw a regress in my autism happening. I was non-verbal till I was 2.5 but the amount of texture issues I had to deal with were almost unbearable.
This brings me to one of my most complicated struggles I had as a toddler…
For many in our disability community this is a huge issue. Add autism to the mix and it can be too much. I did not like being in a shower or bathed whatsoever. Later, when I began to talk for the first time I would scream “go away rain! Go away water!” My parents would use wet cloths to clean me as a shower nozzle or a tub full of water became an impossible solution. Tactile autism had become a major difficulty and for a while it seemed like it would never get better.
As I was still very young I really never embraced how much this may be impacting me at the time. From not being able to bathe, to suddenly not being able to hug or embrace my loved ones was very difficult. I know it was heartbreaking to not only my parents, but my entire family when they realized the kid that would come around during the holidays suddenly didn’t want to be touched by anyone he had grown up with.
It wasn’t until later where the conversation changed.
A little after I turned 3 we were at a local pool for a birthday party. Like many of times before I wasn’t looking forward to the experience. My parents in a struggle put my bathing suit and we were off. When the party started all the kids were in the pool while I was on the outside looking in. Around the pool there was also several shower nozzles. For whatever reason while seeing all the kids having fun running around the nozzles led to a trigger going off in my head.
Before I could really take responsibility for the danger that may happen by doing what I was thinking in my head I ran under one of the shower nozzles and instead of flapping, twirling my hair, running away, or doing any of my usual coping mechanisms, I just smiled and laughed with the other kids.
My parents were thrilled and later that night was the first time they were able to bathe me in a bathtub for over a year. I wish I could tell you there was a miracle solution that made this happen but there wasn’t. It just clicked and for me and my family that was enough.
I hope by me sharing this emotional experience I can help spread awareness for the need for those with autism to get the best early intervention services possible to help with these overloads. For those out there who may have a similar difficulty with their child please know that I’m there for you when these issues arise. Being a part of a community is about being able to share our stories especially when some of the hardest times.
Today, water doesn’t effect me at all and I hope one day, if your kids are ever invited to a pool party in the future, that they will be able to have as much fun as I did that day.