He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rhythm Running

One night soon after James first started to crawl at 7 months, he started moving around the kitchen floor.  I watched, amused, for a bit as he got faster and faster, and noticed he was going in a triangular pattern and to the exact same tiles.  I got down on the floor and tried to play with him, thinking I could start a game of tag or get him to chase me, but he got really upset that I was in his way and just kept trying to go through me to the next "base". He acted like I was a rock in his way.  New Mom, getting a little freaked out, I decided to bring him into the living room.  He just kept going back into the kitchen to crawl his pattern.  I decided he must just be tired, and I must just be over thinking things, so I picked him up and brought him upstairs.  He screamed the entire time and it seemed to take forever to calm him down and get him to sleep that night.  The next morning, when I brought him downstairs and put him down on the living room floor, he bee-lined straight for the kitchen and started crawling in the same triangle, to the same tiles. 

Since that day he hasn't stopped doing these laps.  The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine.  Laps around the house became a daily ritual.  He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same.   There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until HE is ready to.  Trying to stop him beforehand results in consequences that could last the remainder of the day.  At one point, there were 7 different "songs" he created for the laps, each with its own complex foot pattern.  We could sit and each and yell out a "1" or a "4" or a  "6" and would get whatever song/ pattern he had - we did this over a number of months to test it, and the 7 songs/ foot patterns were consistent!

We've learned that letting him "run his laps" allows his body to organize itself.  We know when he does only 6 laps that he's had a good day.  We know when he gets in the door and immediately starts running that something is definitely off.  The best thing we can do is to let him run and chant and make amazingly elaborate foot patterns until he is ready to move on. 

Most of the running happens right before bedtime, which is the hardest time for James.  He can't slow his brain down enough to relax and let his body sleep, so this is his only outlet.  Caring friends tell us all the time that he needs to calm down before bed, but they don't know James.  He can't rest unless he is able to complete this.  I think his body craves it, he actually NEEDS it.   If we go for a hike,  he'll run the whole time,  no matter if it is 1/2 mile or 3 miles.  I think he feels free while he is running, and I hope he never loses that feeling.

So this is James, and this is why I decided to write a blog.  He can't be "explained" in 3 sentences as I was asked by a clinician to do today (although I certainly tried) but I think his story needs to be told.  Even if it is just so I can look at it 20 years from now and remember these every day moments that have changed my life and given it meaning.  At that point, he'll probably be a cross country runner or long distance track champ, or maybe he'll just design obstacle courses and love to go into the woods and RUN, because it seems to be the only time when he is completely content.

I took this clip last night before bed.  James ran laps for 10 minutes or so before I got the video out, and if you watch closely and are able to listen, you can hear his foot patterns. It is the same basic pattern that he's used since he was 2 years old, and we've heard it, and appreciated it, every day for the past 5 years.


Eileen said...

Kristin, thanks for doing this. I think we all know how hard you and Tony have worked with James and, from our own vantage points, see the incredible progress he has made but I think a lot of us don't really understand what the day to day details are like. The love and appreciation you have for James and how he is shines through this and that is such a great gift.

Jennifer said...

LOVE this blog, love your boy, love you guys. So many similarities and yet differences--F has his own unique songs but they definitely both need to move! At least once a week we look at each other and say "a North American Finn needs to run!" I've been thinking of starting a Boys on the Run club and maybe even get in shape myself...are you in?!! xoxo J

krismac said...

Thanks Eileen, it feels pretty great to write it, I feel like I'm empowering both him and me by telling his story. I appreciate you reading it and the kind words!
Jennifer - definitely! A friend of Beth's is a SPED teacher nearby and coaches cross country, and he has a theory on Autism and running, I've only seen it in James, but would love to talk to him more about what he's done and develop a program - for our boys AND us!!

Khp said...

My daughter is a runner too. she follows a pattern also. I thought her running was for sensory input. Mine also sometimes makes auditory stims while she runs. She needs a run before school and in the late afternoon.
At 8 she is really fast, looking to get her into track or something.