M has autism. Oh yeah, I might have mentioned that once or twice. We are fortunate that she is considered high functioning, which basically means she can speak and she doesn’t have any specific learning difficulties. However, this does not take into account the severity of her reaction to change.
Not all change mind you. If I offered her a chocolate bar instead of Weetabix for breakfast I have little doubt that she’d be pretty cheerful about the change to her weekday diet. But in general she does like things to stay the same. If she is having a particularly bad day even giving her a plate she doesn’t often use can flip her switch and off she goes into a screaming rant, or worse, a full-on meltdown.
So imagine my dismay yesterday when I noticed something happening to the lamp-posts along the seafront road. There was a van, and a pair of workmen involved, and I wondered what had happened to the power supply that all the lamps were on in broad daylight. M was instantly on high alert, demanding to know why the lamps were on, what the men were doing, and they weren’t going to be changing anything were they?
In the event it was late afternoon before I could ask anyone as the events of yesterday on the beach and a hospital appointment took up most of the day, but finally I asked one of the workmen why the lamps were being changed, as by this point it was obvious they were.
This is what the lamp outside our house looked like yesterday morning:
And here is a slightly newer-looking version that is round in a road further from the shore:
If you like lamps (and I must confess I do, I am often looking at and photographing unusual ones) then I think you’ll agree that they are quite stylish. However, the salt in the sea air doesn’t agree with the thin metal strips that hold the lamp to the base and most of them are fairly badly corroded. So, the council, not wanting anyone to sue for death or damages if a lamp corroded through and toppled onto someone’s head or car, decided to replace them. I applaud this wisdom in considering our safety, especially as we park our car outside the house and one of those falling would make a considerable dent in the roof, to say nothing of someone’s head.
But they have replaced it with this:
M is not a happy camper. It’s the wrong shape. It’s the wrong style. It’s got a different shaped light inside (I had to check this but it would appear that she’s right although how the heck she can see when she’s only 6 is beyond me). You name it, she could find a dozen reasons for this being a “bad thing”.
Luckily apart from some world-class whining about the subject she didn’t lose her temper. But it all came back again at bed time. The lamp shines into the room, and when the lights inside are off, in the dead of night, it’s comforting for her (and me to be honest here) to have some gentle light from outside. She was asleep soon after 8pm (that melatonin is a great invention) but when she woke in the night like she often does the first thing she noticed was that “the light is wrong Mumma”. You cannot put anything past this kid! It’s subtle but the light is now more white, less glowing and ever so slightly more harsh. It took ages to get her back to sleep and frankly I don’t think she slept deeply. Consequently neither did I but I’m used to it by now.
So, while it’s a good thing that I am now statistically less likely to be killed by street furniture (as I believe it’s termed) it has not been good for M’s anxieties. She was talking about the lights again this afternoon, and I was heartened that she has fully understood why they have been changed even if she isn’t enjoying the change. And maybe next time there is an unexpected change she might be able to again process it without losing her control.