When Sydney was younger autism was cute. She just learned how to play with toys properly. She sang songs and learned the alphabet. She always wanted hugs and kisses, so that was important to us. As she grew older, the autism looked differently. Her classmates weren’t as nice. She wasn’t included in regular education opportunities. I took a leave of absence from work to see if I could get a handle on things.
I knew I would have to have talks with her about difficult things. In the past I wasn’t sure if she would understand me. What I failed to realize was that Sydney understood more than I gave her credit for . Her communication with me didn’t include words at first. But her body language could tell an entire story.
As she was getting older I worried about her being bullied or mistreated. I worried that she wouldn’t be able to tell me what was happening to her especially on the school bus. I dreaded the day I would have to explain puberty. She is actually handling her menstrual cycle better than me. Yesterday, she drew on a piece of paper a princess pad, because that is what we call them. She drew designs and princess pictures on the outside. It told her she might be on to something for girls like her. She started laughing. I could write a puberty book and she could decorate the princess pads.
I had to think of a way to talk with Sydney about stranger danger. Actually with both kids. Rob and I talked with Harrison when we were married about this topic. This was something that Rob was worried about. He was molested as a child and that still haunts him to this day. After my “talk” with Harrison this week, I knew it was time to talk to Sydney.
We started by reading The Berenstain Bears Learning About Strangers. She enjoyed the book. Next, I used the pictures from above and created a social story for her. Sydney likes to speak to people. I told her that it is fine to say hello if she is with me or with other family members. Then we talked about if someone tried to take her away from us, what she should do. Her drama skills were right on target. She began doing her karate kid moves along with screaming. Our discussion was going well. Now on to the part that I was dreading.
I had to think of a way to talk with Sydney about inappropriate touch. I decided just to talk with her instead of creating a social story. I explained to her that no one can touch her body. I told her to yell, scream if someone tries to touch her body that is covered by her underwear and bra. I will have to revisit this with her. Also, I need to research and see if I am approaching this in the right way.
Parenting is a full-time job. A job where you are the boss and you will make mistakes. The past several years have taught me that trial and error does not mean failure.