Today is the first Monday after our oldest headed off to college. We are excited about Cameron’s opportunity to go off and start the next chapter and no words can describe how proud of him we are. Cameron’s brother has autism and is pre-verbal. We have been preparing for this departure most of the summer on how to handle this change but as a parent you question, “Was that enough?” Are they ready? What are they both feeling?
Planning for a child going off to school is natural. In contrast, it was hard for us to prepare for how this change would affect our other son. My husband and I worried about how Cody would handle this new situation. Like many on the spectrum, Cody is most comfortable in a routine. His routine includes looking for where people are in the house, familiar noises (like my son’s friends or girlfriend coming over the house and laughing and talking loudly), and the physical closeness he and his brother shared. Cameron is a hugger. Cody has grown accustomed to his brother picking him up and wrapping his long arms around him and spending time talking to him while he plays on his iPad. All while this change is happening, it’s also in the middle of a Pandemic and Cody has not been in school since last March. First day of school is Wednesday (remotely) and while I set up a space in our home, Cody shared much anxiety with even more change.
We united as a family and spoke with Cody daily about where his Bro Bro was going. We also gained support from our therapists for them to incorporate in his programs. We showed photos of Cameron’s new dorm room. We did our best to describe what was happening and that going forward it will be different. Because Cody has a hard time expressing emotions and not always sure if he understands, we naturally wondered how much he was taking in. We know there is some understanding because of some past memories he has shared through photos that we never realized he knew about until months later.
When the day finally came to follow Cameron to his new home away from home; The University of Oklahoma, we felt nervous, excited, proud and sad. Some of the most difficult things we do are also the things that fill our hearts with joy. We were leaving a piece of our heart in Oklahoma. The trip home was tough and then thoughts kept seeping in wondering if we were going to be faced with another challenge once we arrived home. The first few days back, I held my breath to see what would happen. We kept busy and made sure we spoke of Cameron a lot and shared even more photos. Yesterday Cameron FaceTimed us and Cody was able to get that visual connection and say hello. It was so wonderful to see his smile and he for sure made my day too!
This morning started off rough. Home was extra quiet, preparing for school and the uncertainty was stressful. I could sense Cody’s anxiety and it just seemed to escalate more and more. He had hit his limit and had a fallout. Any autism parent would agree, the worst part is you cannot fix it for them. You can’t wrap your arms around him to make him feel better, you can’t redirect and really all you can do is help him with some calming breathing techniques that seem to work best for him in his favorite brown chair but not too close but not out of sight.
He finally calmed his self-down and then as a parent all the thoughts go through your head of what caused this. I do believe is was a mix of things happening. I believe he is sad about his brother leaving, change of routine over last 4-5 days leading up to his brothers departure and the changes in our home prepping for his upcoming school year.
I know with time, they both will thrive in their new norms. In the past, Cody has adapted to change very quickly as long as we could get the practice trials in. This may take Cameron a bit longer accepting of his brothers absence but he too will adjust and thrive. We are fortunate to technology these days. Truth be told, I believe over the next few weeks they both will adjust faster than I will.
Having a son with a autism, we worry often and our fears become strong. We are always thinking five steps ahead all at the same time trying our best to live in the present moment to endure those special times that make memories. We have an incredible supports in place and that helps tremendously too.
Wishing everyone a happy transitioning month with our upcoming, remote, virtual and in person school year and with all the other extra transitions sprinkled in!