Sometimes a week is just too long. Too long to focus, too long to be socially appropriate, too long to make the right decisions. Too long for there to not be any problems.
Nigel just returned from a week at Scout camp, and for the most part, everything went well. His father also attended, facilitating appropriate social interaction and keeping Nigel on track with the regular Scout duties that he would sometimes rather shirk. But Nigel participated, helped cook and clean, and attended merit badge activities for environmental science, oceanography, archery, and camping. He did really well until the last day.
Nigel, like many autistic individuals, is an animal lover. He loves our cats, his father’s dog, and the rodents we’ve had, including his very own mouse. He loves animals of most kinds, including fish, birds, and reptiles (insects, not so much). And so he was nearly obsessed with the birds’ nest that was at the Scout camp. There were baby birds in it, up in a tree, and all of the Scout groups took turns going to observe the nest. Scouts and adult leaders alike enjoyed watching the baby birds and their parents. Nigel, more excited than most, decided that he wanted to hold one of the babies.
Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going. In his attempt to retrieve the nest, it fell to the ground. Afraid that he would get in trouble, he left the scene. Everyone at camp soon discovered that the nest had been knocked down and the babies had died, and they all wondered who was responsible. Nigel’s dad had a feeling, so he privately asked Nigel if he had done it. Nigel, visibly upset, admitted his terrible mistake.
It pains me to think of my poor son in such turmoil, berating himself for not thinking about the consequences of his actions, feeling such guilt and remorse that he caused himself to projectile vomit because of his nerves. He has made mistakes of this magnitude before, and after dealing with the consequences, I’ve always assured him that making mistakes is part of growing up, that we all do it, autistic or not. He often blames his neurological difference, saying, “It’s because of the A word. I have a defective brain.” Telling him that different does not mean defective doesn’t seem to help much. I hate that “the A word” causes him to devalue himself.
And so we get through the day – the week – with another “learning experience” under our collective belts. Some weeks there’s just more to learn, I guess.