Parents often ask with concern why when their child has made a gain of some kind in development do they seem to reverse in others?
As an Autistic I can tell you that many times when reaching a new milestone, we may revert to a previous special interest or sensory seeking behaviour for comfort and reassurance.
There’s nothing wrong with that. What we tend to notice more is the regression Autistic’s display if there has been a traumatic experience. But any progress is still a change even if it is good, so a step back in another area (temporarily) makes perfect sense.
We thrive on repetition. Routines provide comfort and safety in a world out of our control and an environment that is often hostile.
Two years ago, I began actively campaigning against autistic mistreatments. This involved having to look at and read materials that were traumatic. I found myself stepping backwards and immersing myself into the films and books that I loved as a child to help me cope.
I was able to relive the same wonderment and joy I experienced the first time I watched or read as an eleven year old. Ah, the excitement of being in Mallory Towers or tagging along as an extra invisible member of Secret Seven!
Is that a negative? No, because this helped me deal with the ugliness of what some are doing to try and “cure” the autism out of children. It helped me step through my fears and become an outspoken advocate to stop the mistreatment of others.
I recently re-started collecting bottle tops, all shapes, sizes and colours.
What prompted that? I had a publisher ask me to write my first book, “It’s an Autism Thing…I’ll Help You Understand.” Yes, it was a positive indeed and a reason to celebrate yet such a large leap. Am I regressing? Or simply looking to a visual and tactile reminiscence of a simpler time?
But what if my child has gone back into something more self-injurious?
This may not be happening because they wish to hurt themselves. They may simply enjoy the sensation of the pain and find it deeply soothing. Here are some suggestions:
- If they enjoy biting their hands, protect them with a glove to allow the pressure but not the breaking of the skin.
- To cope I regularly bite my mouth hard enough to draw blood, at least once a day. This is something I would not wish to stop as the pain grounds me and regulates me. If your child is doing this and will not be redirected with a chewy or damp clean cloth then make sure that they have clean teeth to lessen the worry of bacteria and ice readily available to take down swelling.
- Similarly if head banging cannot be redirected get the helmet and crash pads out and watch them carefully.
- If the regression is smearing excreta, get plenty of play dough and similar messy play and try your best to redirect it. You will be in luck if it’s only the texture they seek.
I enjoy my bottle tops and I adore my films such as Labyrinth and Princess Bride. I love to investigate along with the Famous Five and I shall proudly continue to do so. If they retreat for a while I shall welcome them back like the old friends they are when I need the comfort and security they provide.
Take a different view of your child’s temporary regression. Going for a walk and glancing over your shoulder is no bad thing. It’s just checking to see how far you’ve gone.