December 21, 2009

What's your sign?

Moe is a Gemini. Although I don't know much about astrology, I do know that Gemini comes from comes from the Latin for "twins." I think this is fitting for Moe. His is a toddler, and he has autism. And at any given moment, I'm never sure which Moe I'm seeing.

All toddlers are mysterious twins to some degree. One moment they are perfectly happy and content, and the next they are melting down, unable to express new and more complex emotions, like jealousy. They long to be held like babies but insist on independence. This is what makes the twos so terrible; most parents would take that for granted. I look at every move Moe makes under a microscope. I'm forever trying to tease out from Moe's behaviors what is toddlerhood and what is autism.

For example, Moe has developed this new habit of screeching very loudly when he's excited. He also laughs for no reason at all, or so it seems to me. He doesn't nap anymore (though lord knows I try to get him to). Are these signs of a sensory system in disarray?

Moe has also been going through a phase where he really likes to bite things. He has a toy monkey that he has always liked to chew on, but lately he has wanted to bite everything: the couch, the bed, puzzle pieces, flash cards, even Jeff's shoulder once. It often happens when he's excited. Is this a delayed period of oral exploration? Is he looking for deep pressure sensations?

Moe used to really like to spin, and sometimes he still does. When he first started the center-based program, that was one of the things they pointed out to me as a reason he might require occupational therapy.

When another two year old screams in a restaurant, we tell him to be quiet or use his inside voice. When another kid bites someone, he might get a time out. If he makes himself dizzy, or doesn't like a certain food or lines up his toys or throws a temper tantrum, we don't worry about it. He's just being a toddler. But with Moe, I analyze and strategize and research. I read other blogs by parents of kids with autism to see if this is something their kid does or if it is a sign of worse times to come. It's exhausting and it's stressful. It's unfair, and probably entirely unnecessary.

No matter how hard I look, there's no crystal ball that will tell me Moe's future. Even the best charts won't help me read in the stars the meanings behind each of his behaviors. I know it wouldn't matter anyway, since we'd still be doing what we're doing. But if anyone does happen to discover a magic 8-ball that will tell me what to worry about and what to let go, please let me know.

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