Okay, so a few weeks ago I wrote this post about how I knew that Sammie was sick because, out of nowhere, he started randomly lining things up in the house. This was a highly unusual behaviour for him, and sure enough my gut was right and he wound up with an insanely bad cold.
This confirmed for me what I have always suspected: Sammie behaviours are completely relative to how he is feeling. I can predict, at least with some certainty, how he is feeling based on the severity of certain behaviours, in particular his rigidity and obsessiveness with "things".
You see, Sammie does like lines. But only when they are composed of trains.
Trains should always be lined up.
This is a truth about him that has been more than well established over the years.
Rarely does Sam ever let a set of trains pass by without lining them up.
If there are pictures of trains in different books, he will open these books up, line them side by side, and look at me proudly as if to say "Look mom! Trains line up!"
Even his big Thomas The Tank Engine tent always needs to lined up perfect with Annie the train car.
They just 'go' together.
In fact, he has been ritually lining up trains since he first grasped the fine motor coordination allowing him to do so. Sometimes the trains go places. Sometimes, stuffies or other toys "ride" the trains. But always the trains line up. Usually in one big line, though sometimes side by side. But no matter what, the trains line up- engines at the front, cars at the back. After all, that is what trains do.
He has been doing this for well over two years, with only occasional slips here and there that were always quickly corrected when he noticed a train 'out of place'.
Trains line up. That's what they do.
This is just how his brain works.
Or at least, it was...until today.
This morning, I went downstairs and found this:
Now, these may just seem like pictures of a messy playroom to you (please don't judge me), but to me they are absolute and concrete deviations of stereotyped behaviours that Sammie has clung to since he was just barely a toddler.
The trains aren't lined up.
In fact, they are scattered all over the floor, with half turned over on their side.
I didn't know what to think when I first found them. My instinct was to put them all back where they belonged. I have never felt so completely confused, confounded by my son's behaviour.
But I resisted the urge.
"He will fix them when he is ready."
But after a full day of playing downstairs, off and on for several hours, the trains are still in a pile.
Untouched. Unorganised. Unphased.
What does this mean? Is it a result of removing casein? Is it a sign of a lessening of these patterns of rigidity that I have come to expect and predict? Is this a coincidence or the new "normal"?
If you are a parent with neurotypical kids, you are probably thinking to yourself: "Lady, get a grip. Kids do weird things sometimes. It's not a biggie. You're reading too much into this. Enough already."
But if, like me, you are the parent of a child with autism, you will understand just how significant a shift in behaviour this is. And you will understand why my mind is racing, trying to put back together the pieces of what I thought I knew.
Trains line up.
That's what they do.
Today, they lie in a pile on the floor. And my son is happily slumbering in his room, aware of this fact.
Untouched. Unorganized. Unphased.