One of the reasons I left the private agency I was fostering for was the hope of easier children. Some days Sloane* is fun enough for this single mom. It was nearly three weeks before I got a call after the boys left (see From 2 to 4 and The End). A message was left while I picked Elise* up from school. By the time I called back the 3yr old boy had been placed elsewhere. “Just as well,” I thought, still hoping for a tiny baby before Christmas.
The next day the same worker called to say, “It’s not going to work where we put him. Would you still be interested?” The initial report was: his speech is delayed and he’s not toilet trained. The current foster mom complained he hadn’t slept that first night, refused to talk though is able to, and won’t keep his clothes on. It was his first night in a strange home, so I wasn’t too put off. I said yes. Later another call came to say he may be mildly autistic. Still I said yes.
Joseph* arrived Friday afternoon. If it’s autism he has, it’s certainly not mild. He’s happy, engaging, and affectionate. But seems to be in disconnected from the world. Communication is limited to single words repeated, sometimes connected to what’s going on or in his hand.
Sloane, who doesn’t get along with anyone, instantly fell for him. At dinner the first night, she said, “Love is important. And I love Joseph.” Three days in, her love continues to expand. She speaks kindly and quietly to him (a miracle in and of itself) and is consistently eager to help him. Elise isn’t feeling quite as warmly towards our new arrival. Mostly she stares asking, “What are you doing?” His actions confound her because they lack any logical sequence or explanation. Joseph responds to her with a smile.
The first night bedtime was a struggle. He cried and quickly jumped out of bed when I put him in. While bathing the girls I let him play in his room with the door closed. Tonight when I told him to go upstairs after dinner, he happily hurried into his bed. Pretending to be asleep I hated to explain it was bath time not bed yet. I still have to stay in his room, encouraging him to remain in bed for him to fall asleep. Thus far it’s been about 20mins, which gives me time to check emails and write this blog. Asleep by 8pm and awake by 6:30am has been the pattern. Once asleep, he sleeps right through the night. This morning he even remained in his room until I came to get him after my shower (the rule for everyone in my household). I’m incredibly happy with the sleep component.
During the day he amuses himself, playing and climbing onto to my lap. A trip to Superstore (since he came with nothing) was challenging. I put him in the cart, but he recognized a multitude of yummy treats. Joseph screamed and grabbed for cookies and sugary snacks as I whizzed past them. Again I have an oversized child. The size 4 plaid shirt I bought him for church couldn’t be buttoned this morning.
Church, like the shirt, wasn’t a good fit. Everything went well until a teachers arrived with a muffin in a McDonald’s bag. Joseph really wanted the bag and whatever was in it. Concerned about allergies, the teacher didn’t give it to him. He became increasingly inconsolable. I was called to help. The problem is I have no idea what to do. He hardly knows me. Even a piece of the desired muffin didn’t pull him out of the state he was in. When I tried to pick him up things got worse. Finally I calmed him enough to leave. The teachers were very gracious, encouraging me to have him stay when settled. I worried about another melt down later and didn’t want to be stuck trying to get him through a crowed foyer. If at all possible, I avoid causing a scene. I gathered Sloane and Elise from their class. Joseph wept when I suggested he put his coat on. He continued in the parking lot and the car. Five minutes out of the parking lot, he was ok. Back home he was great the rest of the day. Hopefully with time (and if there are no McDonald’s bags) Joseph will settle into the routine of church.
Inside I keep screaming, “I think I have an autistic child!” This is not the easy I was looking for. Sloane getting along with Joseph eases the strain. He’s really happy at home. The fact is, he needs to live somewhere right now. Why not here?