It's been a crazy month, but we're finally settling into our new house. We've been trying to move in gradually because our son Connor reacts so badly to change.
How do you explain to a child with cognitive disabilities about something like a move?
He spent a good portion of the last month absolutely terrified; he was having nightmares, refusing to eat, was extremely clingy and having multiple meltdowns-- all things that are wildly out of character for my normally even-tempered, happy-go-lucky child. Though it's difficult to communicate with him due to the fact that he is nonverbal and has a limited sign vocabulary, after playing a number of rounds of "Twenty Questions" with him we finally figured out why he was so upset.
It was the packing.
See, my husband is in the military, and so in Connor's experience every time a lot of bags get packed, Daddy leaves. And the last time Jeremy left, when he returned it was to a hospital-- not to our house. So in Connor's mind, packing means that his father is leaving again. And when we started packing the whole house he got it into his mind that this meant I was leaving too. To a child who depends on his parents to be interpreters and protectors for him against a very, very strange and scary world, this must have seemed like the ultimate betrayal.
Matters came to a head when I was taking a load of boxes out to our van one morning before Connor's school started and, not thinking twice about it, left him sitting in the kitchen in his wheelchair. My husband Jeremy was just around the corner and could see Connor, but Connor couldn't see him. I walked back in two minutes later to a completely hysterical child, and no amount of comforting by Jeremy or me was going to calm him down. He sobbed all the way to school, stopped as soon as we walked into the room (as here were people he trusted who were NOT packing and leaving him) and then when I picked him up broke down again as soon as we got into the car. He spent the rest of the day clinging to either Jeremy or me and bursting into tears if we so much as set him down on the couch. In his mind we were leaving him, possibly forever, and no amount of explaining was going to make him change his mind.
It took us physically staying in the new house overnight together (and avoiding him seeing me carry any more boxes out of our old apartment) before he finally figured out that what we'd been telling him all along was really the truth and that we weren't going to be abandoning him. While I'm glad that he's calm and happy now in the new house, it leaves me wondering how we'll explain other difficult issues to him in the future.
I hope that won't be any time soon.
You can find Jess over at http://connorssong.blogspot.com.