The dinosaur was out of his cage! I listened intently at the commotion going on in the room next-door wondering how long his siblings would put up with his playing… or was it even playing? Unlike most kids, when he played, he entered a world of his own and BECAME a dinosaur. He ran on all fours, growled at people and would tweak his body to mimic the motions of a dinosaur. Currently, he was having a grand old time chasing, snarling, and growling at his siblings who were not amused. It was always a difficult balance to determine when to intervene and stop the play or when to allow him to be a kid and have fun. As the “game” continued, the screaming commenced and I knew that the other kids were done! I ran into the room and tried to ask him to pick a different game. I explained that his siblings didn’t want to play with his dinosaur-self today and asked him why he was upset. (He would usually bring out the dinosaur when he was upset about something) He looked up at me with bewildered eyes and said, “Mom, isn’t it obvious that I’m not mad? Look at my hands…. I have three fingers up which is the nice dinosaur and that means I am playing. A T-Rex has two fingers and that’s when I’m mad.”
I just had to laugh at this. What mom would think to check how many fingers are sticking up to see the mood of their child haha!! This taught me an important lesson, however, that he was communicating with me through the dinosaur. As I watched his dinosaur self more closely, I began to pick up on his cues. I realized that the dinosaur communicated his big feelings in a way that his words could not. It wasn’t just the angry feelings either. It was also excitement, happiness, sadness etc. As I learned how to tap into this method of communication, I began to better understand my son. I worked with the school to set up behavior charts that were created using a dinosaur scale. He could point to the different dinosaur pictures to explain to us how he was feeling. We developed charts to help him calm down to avoid the T-Rex mode which was when he would become very angry and violent. Dinosaur items also became quite the motivator. We had few carrots to work with but this became a good one! He could earn dinosaur posters, books, stickers, or little toys. He could earn time to watch dinosaur movies. (which we really had to limit or he would go crazy!) Though this didn’t really change his behavior much, It did help me to better understand him once I learned how to enter his dinosaur world.
This is the reason for my blog title: “Learning to Love My Dinosaur.” I always loved my son in-spite of the autism! He was my first child and the one who made us a family. I didn’t always love the autism. I had to learn to first accept all of him and then to love all of him.