Grief When You are Nonverbal

White male sitting on a brown couch with knees resting on the arm rest.

I recently received a message from my bother’s group home stating there has been an increase in shredding behaviors. What that means is, he will find one loose thread on his shirt of shorts and take it apart thread by thread. He does this when he is anxious and bored.

I went through my normal set of questions- Any recent changes in staff, routines, illness, etc? Nothing was reported. I don’t personally think he likes his current day program which can cause an up tick in behaviors. The day program manager told me he is “old school”. Not 100% sure what that means other than he is probably trying to get my brother to sit and do something. That will not happen. I sent them my CV and suggested I come train the staff.

Anyway, my husband pointed out we were close to a holiday and I was a bit cranky myself. His normal routine was to go to my father’s home Friday evening and my cousins would come over. There would be grilling and weather permitting, everyone would be outside. It was the last, nice weekend in western NY. I suspect some of his behavior was grief related.

We have not established routines yet for here. He is not the biggest fan of dogs so bringing him to our house may cause more stress. Especially now that Winston is the size of a small horse. My brother did enjoy the take out we had at Thanksgiving so we will do that again. (Shout out to Maddison’s!). I also think that he may think that if he comes to our house, he will get stuck here for 5 weeks like last time. We picked the house we did for my brother and now doesn’t want to hang out here. Rule #1, it’s not about you.

So how do you establish new routines? How to do explain grief and behaviors for someone who does not talk? I don’t really think it is any different- irritable, tired, increased behaviors, quick to become angry. We all do it.

I have been learning a lot from autism self advocates and The Global Autism Project. It’s not that can’t feel emotions. They just have more of a challenge knowing what to do with the emotion. I do get it to a point. I have historically not been able to talk about emotions. Forget when I was a teenager. So why is it any different with my brother? I have more words than most people care to hear but had a challenge discussing emotional states.

How do you deal with challenging emotions?

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