Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Improvements in Socialization

Ever since our doctor adjusted Alex’s anxiety medications recently, we have noticed positive changes in his behavior. Of course, our main goal was to ease the obsessions that triggered anxiety attacks that escalated into full-blown meltdowns. While we are thankfully seeing some improvement in his anxiety, we have also noticed that he has become more social. While “social” is a relative term because socialization issues usually accompany autism, we are pleased to see Alex being more interactive. Considering that he wanted virtually nothing to do with me for the past few months and even isolated himself from Ed at times last month, any attempt to spend time with us or to show interest in other people marks progress in our book. Therefore, I have made the following observations this week about Alex’s improvements in his social behavior.

1. For some reason, Alex decided a few months ago that I was persona non grata, and he would run from a room if I entered it. If he wanted to be in a room where I was already, he would abruptly tell me, “Mommy is leaving.” While I tried not to take his rejection personally, I began to wonder what I had done to annoy him, even if I was giving off some odor he found offensive. My mouthwash, deodorant, and pride all working fine, I decided he just wanted to be independent of me, so I respected his privacy. This past week, however, he has actively looked for me to tell me something and has even chosen to sit beside me for an extended time on the couch. While he usually comes to me because he wants me to do something for him, at least we’re on speaking terms again. This is a nice way to begin 2012.

2. Although Alex has always enjoyed going for rides in the car with Ed, he now requests going specific places, such as driving past my parents’ house. In recent days, his favorite place to drive past is my sister’s house, but Alex refers to it by the name of her daughter, his cousin. Every day he asks, “How ‘bout to drive past Hannah’s house?” I think it’s interesting that he doesn’t want just to go places, but he wants to drive by the homes of people he knows, even if it does seem slightly like a stalker/"creeper." Perhaps if his behavior improves, he might even be able to go inside the houses and actually see the people who live there.

3. Another place Alex requested to go over the weekend was Wal-Mart. Now, Alex has had a long-standing affection for shopping at Wal-Mart, but his anxiety has inhibited his desire to go there in the past few months. That he wanted to go to a place filled with people marks a good sign that he doesn’t mind being around crowds. Unsure of how well he would really cope with weekend hordes at Wal-Mart [I find myself unnerved in that situation!], we suggested that we would take him some weekday when it’s less crowded.

4. Up until about a year ago, Alex talked to my mom on the phone daily. In fact, he enjoyed this “reach out and touch” time so much that I used it as a reward/bribe to get him to behave himself: “If you want to talk to Nanny, you need to be a good boy.” Like his recent rejection of me, he also decided that he no longer wanted to talk to her on the phone anymore. This weekend, out of the blue, he came to me and told me that he wanted to call Nanny. Despite being out of practice, he did fairly well making small talk on the phone. Since then, he has requested to talk to her on the telephone a couple of other times and has continued to improve his conversational skills with her, speaking up and answering the questions she asks. Again, this is a good sign that he wants to interact with other people.

5. Yesterday when he was on the phone talking to my mom, Alex told her that he wanted to start writing stories about Bill and Carlos again. When Alex was younger, he invented the characters Bill and his son Carlos and wrote simple stories about their lives. Alex’s creating these stories in the first place was a bit surprising because he much prefers to read nonfiction, and he doesn’t show a great deal of imagination. His renewed interest in these characters and wanting to write about them shows improvement in his socialization because he usually shares these stories with us.

Although none of Alex’s behaviors seem astounding because they mark small steps of improvement, we’re pleased nonetheless that he is making attempts to engage us (and others) in conversation and shared experiences. We’re hopeful that he continues to make good strides and that 2012 signifies a year of marked improvement for Alex.

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” Revelation 2:19


K. C. said...

I'm glad you have seen some positive changes, Pam. I hope 2012 continues to bring more peace to Alex.

Pam Byrne said...

Me, too, K.C.! Thanks for your note.