He may come by it naturally – I don’t feel in moderation. I feel everything in intensity, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Tucker feels. He feels strongly. Sometimes he has difficulty controlling his emotions. When he laughs it’s like a choir of angels singing. When he cries – he still throws his head back and lets it out. Tears, still the size of dragon tears, will roll down his face. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this one. Does this really have to do with being on the spectrum or just being my child?
It’s a double whammy for him (now triple that he is entering puberty :/). Children on the spectrum often have emotional outbursts due to their hyper sensitivities to their sensory-filled environments. They not only feel at a different intensity, but combine that with their added vulnerability and whammo! You have a child who is often so overcome by emotion they cannot make decisions or deal with everyday ‘normal’ occurrences.
When he was a toddler he would become so distraught that he couldn’t see his way out. So, we started reading books about emotions. I started to point out the faces of others on the page. We talked at length about how the characters were dealing with their feelings.
Some of our favorite books included…
Angry Bird by Jeremy Tankard. This story was Tucker’s absolute favorite. It tells the story of an Angry Bird who, with the help of his friends, finds happiness.
When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
How Are You Peeling? by Saxton Freymann
If You’re Angry and You Know It by Ceclily Kaiser
My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems (Elephant & Piggy SEries)
Llama, Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
As he got older we used social stories (in conjunction with his teachers). Social stories are stories developed with Tucker as the main character. This way he could read about and view his ‘correct’ emotional response to something that set him off, these social stories taught him how to ‘get out’ of his emotional prison.
As I’ve aged (and Tucker too) I realize that much of the work we did with him controlling, naming, and redirecting his emotions has helped in a variety of ways.
Obviously, the number of complete emotional outbursts has declined significantly. He’s able to name a myriad of emotions – from frustration, to jealousy, to sadness. In fact, he may be more adept at naming, controlling, and reestablishing his emotions than many adults.
Regardless, I think about how far we’ve come – and how far we have yet to go. Or maybe not. It reminds me that we are all on the spectrum. Somewhere. Somehow. The difference is that most of us are able to control our tendencies, especially in public. We are able to hold it in until we get to the car, our bedroom, the shower. But, you know – maybe this isn’t good. Maybe if we were all a little more real and present in our emotional’ness like children on the spectrum we wouldn’t have so many folks in our world walking around with so much sad, so much anger, so much hurt.
Why? Because they would have let it out…and allowed friends, neighbors, and relatives to surround them with love and support.
So, go ahead – let it out…just like Tucker does.