In the few days since we returned from our 2017 family vacation extravaganza, I have noted some interesting behavioral exhibits on the part of my special Aspie and I. We have been experiencing a process of transition from the vacation routine back to the old home routine.
The behavioral exhibits have included loss of sleep, increased anxiety concerning the unique oddities of our home, less flexibility on part of our special Aspie toward siblings and parents, and difficulty on my part getting back into my work routine at office.
Sleep deprivation for an autisic parent, parenting an autistic
Our first night back at home proved for me, to be a restless night of sleep. Same with the next few nights. Last night was the first night of nearly uninterrupted sleep since returning which, is to say, I only woke up once in the middle of the night. On any given night, for me, that is solid sleep.
Our special Aspie has always struggled with falling asleep at night taking, on average, one to two hours before doing so. On nights when our special Aspie does fall asleep within an hour or two, he is up by 5:00 AM, at the latest, rousting his sleep deprived parents from bed with, “I’m hungry and I need breakfast, now.” Got to love the directness of Aspie’s.
That first night, he was up past midnight, constantly out of bed, and generally freaking out about any little thing including small flying insects flying into his mouth. The second night, a redux except, our special Aspie was awake until nearly 2:00 AM. In addition, he was waking up at 5:00 AM or earlier, nearly every day!?!
Any sleep deprived person – child, teenager, adult – is going to struggle with interpersonal relations. For an Aspie, sleep deprivation just layers on another degree of difficulty. And so it has been with our special Aspie. Last night, was the first nearly normal night of sleep he has experienced since returning home. Asleep within an hour, woke up around 7:00 AM. As a result, my lovely spouse and I got to sleep better as well. His sibling? Has the ability to sleep anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. If it wasn’t a sin, I’d be envious…too late I guess.
The new old environment
So, our home and furniture create rather interesting shadow effects on walls. Plus, a public walkway is on the side where our special Aspie’s room is located. Needless to say, he had to work through all of that stimulation, even though previously experienced, and still working through the new old sensory processing.
For an Aspie, at least this Aspie and his special Aspie, every experience is a recurring first experience that requires us to process the (new-old and new-new) stimuli we encounter, again, as if for the first time, requiring significant use of mental faculties, higher probability of meltdowns, shutdowns, or fatigue. It’s why we like structure, routine, sameness. We don’t like meltdowns, shutdowns, etc. anymore than those who may be affected by such behavioral exhibits.
For my special Aspie, he has had to work through being back in his room with all its stimuli in addition to the significant uptick in sensory processing that entails. Been a rough patch for him since we returned as he transitions from vacation routine back to home routine. We, as parents, have had more disciplinary issues with him, he has been ruffer with his sibling, and generally not as flexible, though, all of this could easily be a feature of missing several social skills groups in a row.
Aspies, especially younger Aspies, need constant, consistent, and loving positive reminders and reinforcement. So subtle and overloading are sensory issues that we can easily become swamped by too much information stimulus, that all our mental capacity is directed toward processing through the sensory overload, leading us to unintentionally and easily forget social and coping lessons learned, at best.
Did I mention Aspies rely on routine? Aspies like consistent unchanging routine. Our vacation interrupted the routine on which both my Aspie and I depend for feeling secure, safe, and calm because we know rather than grappling with unknown. Yet, once we settled into our vacation routine, the vacation was nearly over. Meaning that we would have to transition back to a routine by which we had not been operating for a couple weeks. I know, sounds like not a big deal — for a neurotypical.
In my case, the experience that comes with age and travel has led me to develop coping skills that make this sort of transition easy. My special Aspie, on the other hand, is young, still being introduced to much of what life has to offer. That lack of experience makes for a more difficult transition back to our new old routine.
Consequently, an Aspie may seek to cling to features of the, in this case, vacation routine, during the transition period, rendering the Aspie a bit more inflexible as the Aspie clings to what they know has been the routine norm during vacation and is less willing to accept a siblings participation in play activities which include a specific order of toys, rules, and objectives unique to the Aspie method of play. Challenge is that features of the vacation routine may not be compatible with the new old home routine. Time and patience is needed to allow our Aspie to transition back to the new-old routine.
At the Office
Yeah, so, I’ve procrastinated long enough. Have to get my syllabi done for Fall term. Then there are five or six other tasks all of which must be given due attention. Hmmm, where to start? Which has priority? Maybe if I make a list and then assign a priority rating….
Should have stayed on vacation.
(Image courtesy of http://www.theumbrella-foundation.com/what-is-aspergers/)