Life360 Office Manager, Michelle H. talks about what it’s been like as a single mom trying to keep a routine for her child who is non-verbal autistic.
“It’s 4:30am. The silence startles me from a deep sleep. The L train stopped running weeks ago. The familiar hum always lulled me deeper in the wee hours before my alarm went off. Now, like clockwork, I’m wide awake every morning. In about an hour, the sleepy six-year-old will wander down the hall and crawl into my bed. He will pass back out for another hour or so. I will play out the day in my head. How many meetings do I have? Will we get outside today? Will he sit for schoolwork? Will there be a meltdown?
G is non-verbal autistic. He thrives on routine. Every morning the same breakfast, the same cartoons, then dressed, backpack, and go downstairs to wait for the school bus. G loves the bus. He still gets dressed, he still grabs his backpack. We go for a walk with the dog, but he always stops and looks uphill for his bus.
Without school, G has no structure in a controlled environment. There are no special education services, no speech or occupational therapy. He doesn’t want to do schoolwork at home. I play the songs they play at school and his teacher sends me assignments, but I can only hold his attention for 10 minutes at a time. He has too much unspent energy. He gets frustrated, he stims a lot.
Stimming is a comfort behavior autistic children do to calm themselves in unfamiliar environments. For G, it’s walking in circles and humming. The living room rug bears the tread marks of a thousand laps walked this month. He doesn’t understand why he can’t go play with his friends. He doesn’t know when Dad is coming back.
Dad is a paramedic in the East Bay, actively transporting COVID-19 patients. We decided when the news of the pandemic broke it was best for G to stay with me full time to avoid exposure. No more weekends at Dad’s. It’s been six weeks since they saw each other aside from two FaceTime chats. G is confused and Dad is heartbroken.
I am very grateful I can work from home. My coworkers are so patient when I have to pause a meeting to help him or diffuse an emotional moment. Some days are more productive than others. Some days, mental health and cuddling on the couch come first.
I think it’s especially important to recognize that this is traumatic for everyone. Though the kids may not fully understand, they feel the same things we do. And that cooped up, stir crazy feeling we all have right now, well, that’s how G feels all the time — like if he stops moving he’ll fall apart.
So we keep moving. We take each day one step at a time. We keep trying. We stretch our bodies. We take deep breaths. And we go easy on each other because we are all in this together.”