I peeked at the camera monitoring F’s preschool classroom. Lively children danced from center to center, exchanging words and toys. Children were focused as they interacted with planned activities alongside their peers and teachers. I searched the screen for the bright blue shirt that I dressed F in that morning. Not a sight of that blue shirt crowded with his peers. Instead a bright flash of blue crossed the screen, back and forth. F sprinted across the room blissfully unaware of his classmates seated around him. His teachers turned a blind eye to the sprinting, obviously well versed in this behavior as a positive outlet to his energy.
Running laps is how F stims, a common term for how people with autism calm themselves. To F, running laps is a necessary and unavoidable way for him to gain the sensory input that he so desperately needs. To strangers however, and regrettably even myself at times, the constant sprinting is an irritable behavior that labels him as an environmental nuisance.
As his mama it has been tough to see his constant movement over the years as I know others view it as distracting. While some parents want their children to soar above their peers, I have ached to see my child blend in. Especially when the behavior separates him from a room full of typically developing children. What I would give to pick him up from school and hear him talk about what he did with his friends that day. What I often hear instead is how he wouldn’t stop getting out of his seat to touch the overhead projector in his classroom.
Someday, I know he’ll sit in a group of children independently and participate without getting up to run. Someday I’ll hear his sweet voice tell me about his friend at school. Someday he’ll sit at the dining table for more than a minute without sprinting away.
Until then I’ll keep searching the crowd for his flashing blue shirt.