Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 29: On a line...

So Sam is sick.

This happens VERY rarely.

So rarely, in fact,  that I was just joking with my bestie that it seems he never gets sick. Jason and I traced it back and the last time Sam had a real cold he was only 2, well over a year ago...

Sick kids are among the world's saddest "everyday stories". It isn't, on its own, particularly interesting.

But what does make this story interesting is how I came to realize he was sick.

Yesterday, Sam had a "quiet" day. Even at school, he seemed to pull away from the routine, preferring to play puzzles quietly in the play tent. This struck me as unusual. Sam is usually quite gregarious, and while he often plays alone, he always seeks out others frequently during his play.

I wondered if he was just tired from the exhausting swim session from the night before, but watched him closely through the night.

This morning, he woke up in a great mood and appeared to be feeling fantastic. At one point, I noticed him wiping his nose but it hadn't really been runny so I brushed it off to the cool weather he had been swinging in.

My friend, A, was over and was going to watch him while I attended a meeting. She mentioned that she wiped his runny nose, but also commented that he seemed fine and brushed it off to the weather. A is one of the most astute people I know, and happens to be an early childhood expert, so I trust her judgment immensely.

And then I noticed the line.

Sam had systematically taken every toy and other random object from the room and lined them up in an orderly fashion on the couch.


Now, this behaviour may scream "autism" to many parents. But that's just not how Sam rolls. The only objects he lines up are his trains. I haven't seen him line anything else up like this since he was barely a toddler.

"Something's not right." I said.

"He's sick."

A appeared surprised by my reaction. Aside from being a little whinnier than usual, he seemed fine.

"I need to keep him from school. This isn't normal for him."

So I made calls, and arranged for Jason to come home from work, despite his general appearance of "fine-ness."

But I knew my gut was right and, within two hours, he was red eyed, stuffed up and running a fever.

I put him down for a nap and he slept 3 hours for the first time since before school started. Upon waking, he spent almost the entire evening in bed, quietly watching his shows.

I ran him a bath with eucalyptus and, before I could stop him, he stepped in fully clothed.

I have one very sick little guy on my hands.

And I knew it when I saw that line.

I can draw a few conclusions from this day.

As I have long suspected, Sam's behaviour depends almost entirely on how he is feeling physically. When he is disregulated, he acts in unusual "stereotypic" ways. But control the biological issues (health, diet, sleep, sensory stimulus) and he is generally asymptomatic, with the exception of being non-verbal.

This furthers my suspicion that the root of Sam's issues lie in the fragile relationship between his brain and his physiology. If his body is out of whack, his neurology is too.

This reenforces the conclusion that behaviour alone can not and should not be the diagnositic criteria for treating his impairments. The root of Sam's issues, while unquestionably impactful on his brain, lies in his body's ability to adapt to his surroundings.

Sam's erratic behaviours are- and must be seen- as symptoms. Not problems in and of themselves, but rather as clues to what the underlying issues really are.

We can not limit ourselves in attempting to control the behaviours. We must continue to ask ourselves "why". What are the environmental and internal causes that are leading to such dramatic differences in his comportment.

Today, Sam felt 'disordered' so he did the one thing he could to create order in the chaos.

He made a line.

And, in doing so, he clued me into his discomfort long before his symptoms could have done so.

Was it unusual behaviour? Maybe.

But it was also brilliant.

My boy, without words, told me everything I needed to know.

I am just grateful that I was paying attention.

I don't care what they say: Behaviour IS communication.

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