I used to get annoyed when I would come home from work or being out and AZ would fixate on telling me, “Mommy, go put on your PJs.” For those not used to the “Autism Language,” fixate means a child will say something over and over and over again. Imagine coming home from a long day, wanting to connect with your child, and only hearing “Mommy, go put on your PJs. Mommy go put on your Pjs. MOMMY GO PUT ON YOUR PJS!!!!”.
All I could think was how I wanted to come home and talk to my son about his day. I had visions of sitting on his bed and asking him how his day was, hearing about all the things he learned or had trouble with, and snuggling together. Reality of what I was met with was repetitive statements telling me to go put on my Pjs. The more I tried to push my agenda of talking to him, the more insistent and angrier he became that I was not listening. Now I have learned to not fight it. I come in, say hi, hear him tell me to go put on my Pjs and don’t come into his room until I have complied.
Part of raising a child with Autism is challenging yourself to see things through their perspective (because how could I ask him to do something I am unwilling to do myself). Upon reflecting on why he insists I put on my PJs, I realized this was his way of showing me love, care, and nurturance. His favorite thing in the entire world is wearing his Pjs (this includes fleece footed PJs in 90 degree weather). He also knows that if I am not at work, I am in sweatpants or my PJS. He has observed how much I despise jeans or dress pants. He recognizes my own love for comfy clothing. He wants me to be as comfortable as he is, in our PJS.
I could focus on the fact that we cannot have the conversation I would like to have about his day. But where would this get me? Instead I can choose to focus on the fact that he recognizes my own love of being comfortable. His insistence on making sure I am in my PJS before he will even entertain the thought of talking to me is showing me love and connection. It is a myth that those with Autism do not observe others, or do not care about others. Yes, they struggle with perspective taking (e.g. seeing someone else’s point of view), but someone with Autism also has the capability of connecting with their loved ones, nurturing their loved ones, and showing care the way they know how. I would be missing all of this if I only focused on the behavior, or what we are not able to do at this point.
So, every time I come home from a long day, put on my PJs, and go in to say hi to my son, I know he was in fact thinking and connecting with me. It really is all about perspective taking.