Jonas loves falling water; it feeds many of his sensory seeking desires.
Recently, he has become obsessed with riding past water fountains near our home. Obsession for a person with autism takes on a whole new meaning and unless you’ve experienced it, it is sort of hard to believe. All it takes is one time for Jonas to become obsessed with something.
Introducing the water fountain tour.
The Harris Teeter near our house has a water fountain out front. We drive past it. The fountain becomes “Teeter Water” according to Jonas. It’s easy to drive past “Teeter Water” on the way home from Grammy’s house and it makes him so happy. Plus, as soon as he sees it, he’s fine, there’s no need to linger.
Before we knew it, Jonas found two other water fountains to add to our tour: one in Grammy’s neighborhood, which he immediately termed “Big Water,” and finally “Uncle Ben’s Water” (which is a series of 3 water fountains in Uncle Ben’s apartment complex – yes, it’s the motherload).
Before I even realize it, we are making the rounds to see each fountain on our ride home… every single night.
“Go see Big Water?” he asks.
“Ok Jonas, we’ll spend an extra 5 minutes on the drive home to see your ‘waters’,” I reply.
If there were security cameras near the Teeter Water or in Uncle Ben’s apartment complex, they might find our frequent drive bys and slow pauses as need for concern.
Then one day it happened.
I was so tired, I forgot to drive past “Big Water”. I still drove past “Teeter Water” and “Uncle Ben’s Water” but the order was mixed up and Jonas couldn’t handle it. He screamed as I turned towards home instead of back to the water tour.
In trying to keep Jonas from waking up his sleeping brother beside him, I began taking directions from the autistic 3 year old in the back seat, who, as I realized later, had renamed “Big Water” to “Wood Water.”
We had both lost all our marbles.
Finally, I just decided to start over with “Big Water” and he was fine. That 15 minute ride home became an hour long.
In the rush of everyday life, working two jobs, caring for an infant, an autistic 3 year old, and a husband, sometimes I just fall into the motions. In the back of my mind, I know I shouldn’t be accommodating his obsessions like this. Temple Grandin told me not to in her book, The Way I See It.
After complaining to his teachers at a recent conference, they told me to start removing a fountain, no matter how much he screams, and finally letting him pick just one to drive past: advice I would have concluded on my own, eventually, had I not been such a frazzled mess. Of course that advice worked, but poor Beckett, he tolerates his brother’s tantrums like a little saint.
Our water tour is much shorter now and sometimes doesn’t even happen. Jonas’ “waters” have become somewhat of a carrot as well… “Jonas, were you a good boy today?” If so, we get to see one or two “waters”. If not, we go straight home.
Lesson learned and just another normal day in the Jackson house.