My son gets the sniffles when the weather changes. It’s one of the most stressful things that happens in our house. He doesn’t understand how to blow his nose and so he sniffles, all day and all night. His nose tickles relentlessly. He can’t sleep. He can’t think. He just sniffles and goes insane. My husband and I usually go right along with him. We try in vain to give him a tissue. He bats it away. We demonstrate ginger dabbing and gentle blowing. We even let him see what we produce. It’s of no use. He sniffles.
On the best sniffle days, he rubs and pokes and whines. On the worst, he rubs and pokes and bleeds. Then he screams. A bloody nose disturbs him (and us). He thrashes and cries and screams some more. And he drips the blood on the carpet, the bed, the tile, his clothes, his stuffed animals, whatever gets in his path. We steer him toward the bathroom and its forgiving linoleum floor, but that makes him madder. He doesn’t want to be touched or told where to go. Occasionally, he will bash himself into us to demonstrate his frustration and so we will get bloody too.
Autism makes it almost impossible for our son to communicate with us in moments of deep stress. When he is highly emotional it is more difficult to get his words out and, truthfully, we’re never sure if he has the right words anyway. His vocabulary has improved more in the last year than I ever really believed it would, but we are far from easy street and nowhere near mainstreaming him with neuro-typical children at school. He was assigned a full-time classroom aide, but even with her intervention he has difficulty attending to the lessons and activities. I sometimes forget how different he is from his peers. I am a strong woman, but the occasional reminders of that always make me teary. He is one of the most challenged and challenging children in the class.
On Wednesday his teacher met me at the gate with a look of fatigue and concern. The sniffles had robbed my son of a good night’s sleep and she could tell. He was impossible to engage, quick to tears and enraged by the tiniest things all day. She almost called me, but decided she could distract him to make it through. I’m not sure she would do that again. She never said so, but I knew in her eyes that she didn’t want him there on Thursday. My heart and I concurred. I kept him home for the next two days.
My son has been to an allergist, an ENT and his regular pediatrician for this issue. They all agree, “it’s just the sniffles…probably because of dry weather or an unexpected change in temperature.” We’re having a little heat wave this week and coincidentally my son’s annual well-check happened on Monday, so I have recent confirmation that this is indeed true. It is “just the sniffles.” No other symptoms ever come with it and any lethargy we see in him always follows a night of missed sleep. It’s sort of frustrating to see that correlation and know that there isn’t something else going on, something we could treat and cure. We have even consulted his psychologist. The reality is that it’s the autism that makes this all so difficult…so we brace ourselves for it.
We spoil our son, let him skip class and we’re generous with the hugs. He spends a few days playing nudist in the house and we forgive ourselves for letting his formal education take a backseat. Now he stands beside me, hopelessly wrapped up in a video game and I confess, I’ve let him play on the computer as much as he wanted in these last few days. I have beat myself up a bit this weekend for lacking the creativity to find more wholesome entertainment for him, but the sniffles are subsiding and he will go back to school on Monday. Right now, we’re going out for pancakes.