Quiet Before the Storm

My friend who is stationed in Japan posted today that even though there seems to be a decrease in activity, there is this feeling as if it is the quiet before the storm. She talked about how her heart aches, how she just wants her old life back. It was then that it hit me… even though I myself have never been through an earthquake, I truly understand what she is going through. I understand her pain, her fear and her desire for everything to be normal. I understand this because in many ways an Earthquake and Autism are the same thing. Perhaps I better explain what I mean.

Simply put, earthquakes are the Earth’s natural means of releasing stress. One minute everything is fine, and the next plates are rattling, chairs are rocking and vases are falling from the living room shelf. Even though experts know why earthquakes happen, there is no reliable method of accurately predicting where it will happen or the magnitude of the quake. And when it does happen, they say the best thing to do is to Drop, Cover and Hold on! Finally, after an earthquake, aftershocks can sometimes be felt for days, even months.

Any parent of an autistic child will tell you that I just described a meltdown.

I certainly in no means wish to downplay the devastating crisis in Japan. The deaths, the destruction and the struggle theses people are facing as they try to control a possible nuclear disaster… it is all just so unreal and incredibly sad. What I am saying is, I understand how your life has suddenly changed, how your routines have been disrupted and how you now have found yourselves in uncharted waters. I understand because this is my every day life and the life of millions of people who are affected by autism.

The only difference is that the outside world is stepping up. They are coming to your aid. They see your pain and they are doing what they can to make it go away. That is not happening for my child or the millions like him. Every 20 minutes a new case of autism is diagnosed and believe me there is no measure on a Richter scale that can possibly reflect how much your world is shaken when you hear it.

I pray my friend is wrong and that this is NOT the quiet before the storm for her and the rest of Japan. Not knowing what is going to happen next is no way to live ones life. I know this because this is how it is for Jay and the others. I also pray that the empathy and compassion that this horrific event as brought out in people will some how spill over to the autistic community. That is one tremor I would not mind happening.

2 thoughts on “Quiet Before the Storm

  1. I like the earthquake/meltdown analogy and know what you mean about the quiet before the storm. At my son’s IEP meeting last week, the teachers and staff raved about how far my son has come in the past few years. I was so proud of him and commended him later for his progress. He was proud too and said he is really trying to maintain control of his behavior at school and in public. I reminded him that he needs to work more on the home front but that he has been a bit better lately too at home. Then I thought to myself “uh-oh” because whenever his behavior has been really good for some time, I know a big meltdown is lurking around the corner. Sure enough this past weekend he had an enormous meltdown at the grandparents’ house about frozen versus takeout pizza. They had bought frozen pizza and he wanted takeout. He yelled, whined, and threw his stuff around. Eventually he calmed down and apologized. He said he didn’t know why he did that and that he has been holding so much in trying to be good at school that it “just builds up.” So, I added one more thing to my “trigger” list (find out ahead of time what the grandparents are having for dinner so I can prepare him). His lack of natural emotional/stress coping skills is one of his biggest problems, but he is slowly getting better as he matures.

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