The Process of Evolving with a Special Needs Child

Atlas Justice

Life is good
But sometimes it’s incredibly hard.

Atlas wakes up at 5am, jumps into bed and snuggles me. He’s wet, but I’m too tired to move except to throw my arm over him and pray he’ll fall back to sleep. Peace, lasted all of ten minutes.

Sleep deprivation creates at atmosphere that’s blurry at best and tunnel visioned at worst. Quick to rise, de-escalation tactics take all my efforts to stay cool, calm and reasonably collected while I fumble through toast and a nappy change.

I make my coffee, roll a cigarette and head outside to watch the sunrise from the balcony. So far, so good. Atlas is giggling with his iPad, seated at the table and picking at his breakfast. Happy, lasted all of 10 minutes.

He doesn’t want toast, he wants something from the pantry instead except that’s not going to happen. Out come the fingernails – gouging and scratching and a temperamental defiance that escalates into a full blown tantrum.

Matty storms out of the bedroom, red-eyed and livid and puts his foot down. Peace, lasts all of another ten minutes before the pattern repeats.

I’ve had enough too. Gone are my attempts to keep the child’s mood on an even keel, gone are those feelings of inadequacy that I can’t contain Atlas long enough to let his father have a much needed sleep-in and so I take him to his bedroom, shut the stairwell gate and try to discipline the problem.

I fail miserably.

Snap! The proverbial shit hits the fan once again and this time, silence is a warning best served cold. Matty descends, a leg is slapped, a door is slammed and peace returns for at least an hour this time.

Meanwhile, I contemplate taking Atlas out of the house for a drive before he starts the cycle again. I panic. My clothes are in the bedroom, I’m not sure where the car keys are, will Matty approve, will Atlas lose it in the car anyway? I decide to wait a while longer. My jaw is sore from grinding my teeth.

Matty needs respite but I’m all there is and so we lurch from dawn to well into the early hours, exhausted and running on fumes.

Atlas is a cockblocker too.

The countdown to esctasy on hold for the indefinite future. Foreplay, fails to get either of us off the ground or high enough to move to first base, let alone dive in fingers first and squeeze one out. The conditions of our release barely blow off steam and the only thing getting hard, is life for the next two months, while we reassess the situation.

A temporary adjustment. Life is actually pretty good. Most days Atlas is on form and we make a great team but school holidays with a child with special needs, without any respite, requires strategy.

© Copyright 2022, Poetry Out West, Jodine Derena Butler. All rights reserved. First published on Raising Atlas Rising, 2022

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