Over the weekend, I got to spend TWO WHOLE DAYS with my favorite little man. He’s five years old, and he has ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and a few other things I can never remember because the list is too long. He’s my sweet, hilarious, unique nephew.
The thing about spending two whole days with him, which I haven’t gotten to do for several years, was that I got to see a more authentic version of him.
It’s not that he’s inauthentic when I see him for shorter periods of time (I don’t even think a five-year-old with Autism could be inauthentic), but being around him for a longer time period gave more opportunities to see his “differences” manifest.
I know his ADHD makes him impulsive, but it wasn’t in the forefronts of my mind until he picked up a bat and swung it so fast it whacked his cousin before she could duck out of the way. It left a welt and bruise on her arm, but his Autism prevented him from understanding her emotional pain. He didn’t comfort her or ask if she was okay until his mom prompted him to do so, even though his cousin is his best friend.
I also know his ADHD makes it hard for him to focus for long periods of time, but it became even realer when I saw his mom have to regain his attention four times just to finish a single sentence.
I know his ADHD makes it hard for him to control his motor movements, which results in problems with certain motor skills and hyperactivity, but seeing all of those things throughout the weekend was a harsh reminder.
Doing the same activity of play for more than thirty seconds was hard for him. He bounced around a lot, which drove his cousin a little crazy while also making her excited at the thought of changing tasks so often. He didn’t realize that every time he changed activities, she would change too because she wanted to spend time with her.
He wasn’t super interested in spending time with her (because of his Autism); he just wanted to play. That’s called parallel play. Basically, he only knows how to play in the same space as other kids. He doesn’t know how to integrate other kids into his playing.
When we were all outside playing, he spent most of his time digging with a shovel, lost in his own little world. One of the other seven kids out there would holler at him to stop throwing dirt on their heads, but as soon as he realized what they were saying, the thought was gone from his mind and he was flipping dirt again.
He also doesn’t have much spacial awareness, which is a problem for a lot of kids with ADHD. It’s not something you’ll read much about in medical textbooks, but parents of kids with ADHD talk about it a lot and so do therapists. Kids with ADHD have a tendency to forget about how much space is around them, who else is in the space with them, and how they should treat the space.
To make an analogy, it’s like walking through a crowd of people but not really realizing that anyone else is in there, while simultaneously being overstimulated by all the sights, sounds, smells, and everything else.
And you know how there are times when you’re in a crowd of people, you need to get from point A to point B, and you see a gap between two people that leads the direction you want to go? And you wonder to yourself, “Can I fit between them? Or should I not even try?”
My nephew is almost always in a constant state of, “I need to get from point A to point B. I’ll take the shortest route possible, regardless of what’s in the way.”
At a dance recital on Sunday, I watched him walk through a throng of people and duck between two people who standing close enough to be linked arm-in-arm. He didn’t even consider whether or not his mom would be able to follow him on his path. He just took the quickest route to his destination and forgot about the rest.
He lives in such a different world than the world I’m used to seeing my own five-year-old live in. And because of that, his mom lives such a different life than I live.
It’s the same in the fact that we love our children more than we love ourselves, and we’re doing the best we can to provide for their specific needs, but it’s different in that she has to constantly be calculating his next move. She can never take a break or stop watching him.
We have more freedom. I guess that’s what you’d call it, anyway. That’s the only word I can think of after reflecting on our weekend together.
I loved every single second of it, but it was great to be reminded of the reality of the ADHD world.