My son is now 15 and commonly SEEMS to be very unhappy. I say SEEMS because I have a real difficult time knowing.
Typically, I can tell by the way my kids act, or talk or their body language, how they are feeling. But with my sons affected by autism, I know they possibly have different indicators.
Here’s the question. As he is not very verbal, he has difficulty expressing to me how he is feeling, or if he’s happy or mad. And, as hard as I try, sometimes I have difficulty understanding – again, even though I patiently try VERY hard.
So, is body language a reasonably accurate indicator of how a person affected by autism is feeling, or may I simply be misinterpreting the clues he’s expressing or maybe he has alternate clues than we typically see?
Let me give you an example.
Yesterday, I entered his room to find him sitting slumped over on the edge of his bed with a tremendous scowl on his face. His head was down, his eyebrows were in a very distinctive “angry V-shape” and his breathing was shallow and short. When I kindly spoke to him, he responded in an angry tone. Typically when I see someone exhibiting that kind of body language it’s a clear indicator that something is wrong, or they are focused on something that is bothering them or they are depressed.
Keep in mind, he’d been doing what he LOVES to do all day long (as he’s out for Spring Break and had been watching movies) and he had just finished his favorite food (pizza and strawberry milk.) I would assume (of course I know that when you ASSUME you make and ASS of U and ME) but I have to start somewhere – but I would assume this would be a good day for him and he would be reasonably happy.
But he didn’t seem to be happy at all. He SEEMED to be “stewing” over something. And this “state” is very common for him right now – and it’s been his most common state now for almost a year. Very rarely does he exhibit much happiness. Even when something makes him laugh he covers his face and lowers his head – as if he’s embarrassed to let you see his laughter.
Here are some of my thoughts. If I AM misinterpreting him, that’s great and all is well. I am okay with that and he’s reasonably happy and just being a teenager. But I will not jump to that conclusion because I think it’s too risky. If he IS upset and/or depressed and I just assume he is fine, and just let it be, it may escalate in to something more harmful – and I am doing him a disservice. I don’t have it in me to sit idly by and not try and do something.
Am I overreacting? I’ve already read many books and articles on helping those affected by autism build their self-esteem and letting him know it’s okay to be different and celebrate who he is and his uniqueness – and I am actively working with him in those areas… BUT…
Well… I guess I’d simply like some thoughts from the professionals I know. And some of those that have been in his shoes. So, all you smart people out there (much smarter than me) what are your thoughts?
Of course, I realize I have this “disease” call OVERTHINK(ITIS) and I may be suffering from a bit of IWILLDOANTHINGANDEVERYTHINGINMYPOWERNOMATTERWHAT(COLI) so if I’m overreacting you can tell me that too. But…
“When you walk in on you son and for seemingly no reason, he ‘looks’ severely depressed and angry, it cuts deep in to your heart and the hurt for him is almost unbearable.” I have to try and help.