Moving forward while glancing back…

This article was written by Emma Dalmayne, an autistic advocate, activist, and writer from the UK. It was originally published on her website and is reprinted here with her permission.

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 if your child has, for instance, become toilet trained recently, they may revert to a previous special interest or sensory seeking behavior for comfort and reassurance.

There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, it makes perfect sense, any progress is still a change even if it is good. More recognized is the regression Autistic’s display if there has been a traumatic experience.

We thrive on repetition and routine, they provide comfort and safety in a world out of our control and an environment that is often hostile.

As of two years ago, I have found myself campaigning against autistic mistreatment most of which involves looking at and reading material that is traumatic, I have found myself seeping backwards and seeking films and books that I loved as a child.

Watching them allows me to relive the same wonderment and experience the joy I felt then, reading the books I read as an eleven year old spins me back to the excitement of being in Mallory Towers or tagging along as an extra invisible member of Secret Seven.

Is that a negative? I don’t believe so, I used to collect bottle tops, all shapes, sizes and colors.

What prompted that? I had my first offer of publication on my first book, a positive indeed and a reason to celebrate surely yet a large leap in circumstance…and I’ve recently started again…regression?

Or simply looking to a visual and tactile reminiscence of a simpler time?

Unless your child has gone back into a self injurious phase (which may not be, might I add,  because they wish to hurt themselves, they may simply enjoy the sensation of the pain and find it deeply soothing), then I suggest you allow it.

If, for instance, they enjoy biting their hands, protect them with a glove to allow them 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 as well as you can that they have clean teeth to lessen the worry of bacteria and ice readily available to take down swelling.

Similarly for head banging (if they will not 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, if it’s only the texture they seek, you will be in luck.

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, and, if as they may, retreat for a while, I shall welcome them back like the old friends they are.

Taking a different view, going for a walk and glancing over your shoulder is no bad thing, it’s just checking how far you’ve gone.

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