Before we knew that Little Man was autistic and very delayed we had a year or so of uncertainty. He seemed okay. He smiled a bit. He was pretty quiet most of the time but his older sisters would make him cry now and again. They thought his pouty lip was adorable. He was cute as ever. Everything was okay and then again it wasn’t. He wasn’t really talking, but he said a few little words like “Ma” “Da” “Ni” as an older baby. What we were mostly missing was the connection. It’s really hard to describe and back then we really weren’t sure what was missing other than something was off with our baby boy.
Little Man was 18 months old at Christmas. We got up and waited for daddy to get home from work so we could open presents. Daddy was working the graveyard shift. Grandma came over and we set out to do what we normally did every Christmas morning which was to tear into gifts and have an hour or so of complete chaos before winding down and settling down for the day.
What was different this particular year what that as the girls were tearing open gifts and being crazy and loud and as we were helping Little Man open his gifts he didn’t seem to be enjoying it. He wasn’t crying or fussy or mean. He had a scared and confused look on his face. He was completely overwhelmed with what was happening around him. He didn’t meltdown but he couldn’t process the chaos of noise and wrapping paper and presents going on all around him. I held him on my lap as this was going on. Finally we helped him open one of his gifts. It was a yellow Telatubby ~ Lala.
He grabbed it and hugged it to himself like an anchor against the crazy. From that day forward he carried Lala all over the place by the curly cue on top of its head. Lala became his security blanket against whatever was troubling him. It became ratty and dirty but it was so very important to him. He was even holding Lala during the his adoption proceeding that following summer. Lala was a very big deal in our house.
We may never be able to fully understand that feeling of sensory overload and that sense of being completely overwhelmed but it was clear that Lala was helping him deal with his struggles that day and continued to help him for several years after that.