28: Peace

28: Peace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum


Adversity is the first path to truth.

~Lord Byron

I can hear the echo of his steps as he slaps his shoes against the hard tile floor. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

His pace is quick. He stares intently at the ground. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

He walks along the perimeter of the common areas where the white tiles change to color, a path that he set in entirety even before he started. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.

If people are in that path, if they do not keep up with his pace, he simply pushes through them. Fingers in his ears, humming nothing specific and tuning out the world, today, this is how our older son is finding peace. Here, at the mall.

In these final days of August, when our special kids are on break from their summer services and awaiting the start of the new school year, just coping with the day can be a struggle for us all.

This break, our son recovered from a seizure while he had a colitis flare. We gave him a new medication to which he is apparently allergic.

He developed a swollen, itchy rash right when the air conditioner broke in the house.

Suddenly, he found loud, buzzing fans everywhere, fans that other people kept turning on every time he tried to turn them off.

It made people angry when he turned off the fans. But, those fans hurt his ears. They hurt his head. They disturbed his sleep. Yes, life for our son during this break from services has been pretty darned uncomfortable.

So, by day, he searches for peace in the mall, even before the shops are open. He walks. He retreats within himself, fingers in his ears and unresponsive to communication.

He escapes inside his body that itches and twitches, jerks and stomps its hurried way up and down each and every corridor. He becomes lost inside his own mind, that place of peace inside him that has helped him cope with the outside world.

Our world.

Day after day, I dutifully follow behind him. I keep him from harm’s way, from injuring people he doesn’t care to see in his path. Admittedly, I sometimes find it hard to scrape together the patience to work with an unresponsive shell of a child when I, too, am feeling stretched.

Often defeated, I let my mind wander. I think of other things or I think of nothing at all. When we stop for a rare break along our path, I’ll pull out my phone to make contact with people who don’t live this life, to talk about anything other than autism.

Or, maybe I do talk about autism. Maybe I curse it, depending upon the day.

Either way, disconnected and with a blank stare, my nose often pointed down toward my phone, I realize that my place and posture of peace during this break are not all that different from our son’s.

I know that I could socialize with him or with anyone else around us for that matter. But I just don’t want to. I’m tired. I haven’t slept well. I’m prickly and sensitive. I’d rather shove my nose in my phone or zone out and plow through the day.

Life is just more peaceful that way.

I love our son. I don’t want him to be a shell of a child. Yet, it is along our path today that I have become more protective of his right to sink inside himself and to shut out the world — at least temporarily — in order to establish his peace.

We all do it.

Maybe we don’t pace the floors of the mall. Maybe we don’t shove our fingers in our ears and hum some strange sound. Maybe we don’t twitch loose our muscles.

For what it is worth, our older son doesn’t happen to use a phone.

I do. To each his own.

~Amy McMunn Schindler

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