The next thing I know, I'm staring a meltdown in the squinty, tearfilled eye. I'm also staring up at a counter of disapproving librarians. It looked, remarkably, a bit like this...
|Except there were three of them.|
Can I tell you it was awful? How about if I share that I looked up at them and then broke out into a sweat of shame and guilt. I knew I had done everything right. I had set clear limits. I had rewarded the bits of good behavior he had displayed. I had put him in time out even. Despite my best efforts, everything had suddenly and completely failed. I had failed. Worse still, I had failed him. They were staring that way at my son.
In that instant, I wished for a T-shirt that said, "Don't look now...it's Autism!" I was willing for them to dismiss and excuse my son with a handy label. Anything to get us out from under such hostility and the glare of their judgemental eyes! I wished for a brief second of silence so I could squeeze the words, "He's really never like this" into that space between the howls. (Really, he isn't.) I wanted so desperately to shield him from what I read on their faces. If only I could have left the library at the first sign of trouble! Shortly, he did quiet enough to stand up again, at my urging, and make his way out to the sanctuary of our van.
Later that evening, on my mind's instant replay, I would realize that he had responded to their glares. He went from blind howling to desperate sobbing at about the same instant that I broke out in my cold sweat. He actually felt the social pressure to conform and quieted a bit. Granted there was a ton of that pressure and also granted there is no way of knowing if he was responding to the librarians or to my reaction to the librarians. Either way, that was "good" news. It shed a light of victory over the incident. In fact, I wouldn't have had it happen any other way, and yes, I will return to that exact library again. If only to show them that we DO know how to act in public.
The bad news is that he was sick. Later the next day he started throwing up and the next day, the doctor diagnosed a strep infection. So I'm writing this in his defence, just in case anybody who witnessed his meltdown is listening. He wasn't being a bad boy. He wasn't even being Autistic. He was sick, feeling horrible, and had no other way to express it.
And like a miracle, he saw his actions were causing a reaction, so he modified his behavior. Good job, son!