The little bag was hiding inside one of the many containers in her room. As she lined her figurines up across the floor, I picked it up to inspect it more closely.

“Hmm, what’s this, Brooke?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. She hadn’t looked up.

I brought the bag over and sat down next to her on the floor. I held it out where she could see it.

“These must have been a party favor, baby. They’re very cute.”

“They are?” she asked. She still hadn’t looked up.

“Yes, baby. They are,” I said. “Can you look at them?”

I opened the bag. “They’re Hello Kitty. There are earrings and a necklace in here.”

Hello Kitty got her attention. “There are?” she asked.

“Yep,” I answered. “The earrings are for pierced ears though, honey. Should we give them to Katie?”

She stopped what she was doing and reached out to grab them.

“No,” she said. “You would pierce my ears into them.”

In so many ways I prayed this day – or what I thought it would represent – would come.

Now I have no idea what to do.

I want to go with my gut.

My gut says do it. Don’t sell her short. Ever.

My gut says absolutely, positively don’t do it – there’s no way she can fully understand it no less handle it.

What if she’s traumatized by the pain?

What if she tears them out as soon as we’re not watching her?

What if I deny her the chance to do something that she wants to do – something that little girls do as a matter of course – something that her sister did at age seven?

I want to listen to my gut.

But my gut is torn.

Why is every damn decision so fraught with – well, with autism?

I have no idea what to do.

I want to listen to my gut.

But my gut is torn.

24 thoughts on “torn

  1. “torn guts”…story of our lives, huh? She can always change her mind. I think it’s important for her to see you “act” on her words…her request, her permission. See where it goes from there. If she changes her mind, she’ll see you act on those words too. The good thing about these ear piercing places is that now, they can do both ears at once-so the pain of the first won’t leave the job half done, you know? And it’s so fast. Good luck 🙂

  2. This is really a tough one. I think it would be wonderful if she really wants them but I would also be afraid that she might rip them out. I think a story board might be in order here before you do anything. I’ll be thinking about you.

    Love you.

  3. I totally understand what you are thinking/feeling/saying. My daughter who doesn’t have autism (my son does) wants her ears pierced and I am scared that she is going to rip them out when I am not paying attention. Or that they may really bother her. She has some sensory issues. I am also torn. I hope whatever decision you make will make you both happy.

  4. Story board sounds good. Walking her through each step. My daughter who isn’t autistic screamed bloody murder after getting the first one done and we had to talk her into getting the second ear done. It took 15 minutes of talking to her to finish piercing her ears. She does not handle pain well at all. We talked to her for two months before we actually got her ears pierced. It’s a hard decision. Wish it wasn’t. Good luck.

  5. Oooooh. That is a tough one. I think picture schedules and a field trip to a piercer would help. Let her in on your concerns. Tell her that you would love for her to wear those Hello Kitty earrings, and you want it to be happy for her – not scary. I think she has to start with those starter studs anyway, so that would give the Kitty earrings a waiting period.
    From everything you write about your girl, she CAN handle this. Give it a chance. If she goes in with her eyes wide open and ready for that quick pain, it should be fine.

  6. What a perfect way to describe how we deal with every decision. I recently compared it to a chess game where we are always trying to stay a couple of moves ahead to avoid trouble. They did both my daughter’s ears at once and she isn’t even dealing with autism. Maybe that would help. Remember this is not only following your gut, you need to follow Brooke’s too. How often my son Peter surprises me! When I am ready for him to be stressed he isn’t because he has prepared himself for the event. Good luck wih this one.

  7. Yeah, you def need a social story for this one, and step by step explain what is going to happen. Definitely don’t sell her short, and def make sure she knows what to expect. Have her sister help, too.

    Also, make sure you know what to expect. If she gets it done and comes home and takes them out, let it go. Don’t let it consume you. Even typical kids can have a hard time with pierced ears. Just let whatever will be, be : )

  8. Does Brook have an American Girl Doll? I ask because before we took my daughter to get her ears pierced we took her doll to get hers! They actually pierce the dolls ears. We practiced taking care of the dolls ears firs. Twisting them every night, using a cotton swap with the pretend cleaning fluid. She wanted to change the dolls earrings and I told her she couldnt yet as the holes had to really form first. That was the hardest part… The waiting. After a few weeks of taking care of her dolls ears she was ready to get hers done. We did both ears at the same time. She did great! It has been almost a year now and she can take her earrings out by herself now and put them back in.

  9. I agree, I think getting them will be reasonably easy to do – go first and watch, have a social story, do both at the same time, etc. Getting her to leave them alone, that might be another issue. Use Katie as a role model – have her talk to her as well – every girl wants to be like big sis, even if they can’t express that.

  10. There are some great ideas here! I, too listen to my gut but when the answer isn’t clear, I know not to force it. Just let it sit for a bit and the path will become clear. Just let go of it for awhile, if you can.

  11. I would be honest about the pain “like a tiny shot” and let her decide. My 13yo. has wanted to until she watched 2 cousins do it and decided on her own that it’s not for her. Then, if she says no, have that sweet jewelry-makin Mama of yours turn the Hello Kitty ones into magnetic clip-ons?

  12. oohhh..this is really a tough one. Luckily I did my baby girl’s when she was a baby. She was 8 months old and we were not aware of any of her issues yet. So they are part of her, she doesn’t really even know they are there. I am still very hesitant to change them because it brings attention to them. But the American girl doll idea is great!! And exposing her to someone else getting it done is probably a good idea too! It can be scary…but if she loves those Hello Kitty earrings…this is your chance!! Good Luck!! 🙂

  13. I had MacKenzie’s done when she was 6 months old and before we ever knew about her autism. Now she rarely ever wears them. Can’t stand the “feeling” of them and cries when I put them in. Go to the teen jewelry store and buy the stick-on earrings for a trial run before you decide.
    Isn’t it different that we have to think twice about the smallest things? When she gets invited to a Birthday party I have to worry about the noise level where they are going and a million other little things that others take for granted….

  14. sometimes the whole “gut reaction” thing is a myth: your gut can end up telling you 2, mutually exclusive things. both options can seem right, in their own ways. very tough decision…hopefully brooke will continue to verbalize preferences, give you some sense of how much she really wants this.

  15. Delurking here… I have a daughter who is 7 y.o. and she is diagnosed with PDD-NOS (I use “autism”). Anyway, it’s true, we as parents of special needs kids have a little more to ponder. But there are times when I remind myself that sometimes it’s not much different than being a parent of a neurotypical child. I believe that you probably would question yourself either way. Any young child who asks a parent to get their ears pierced would elicit a hesitation from their parent, don’t you think?

    I wasn’t allowed to get my ears pierced until I was ten. My mom really wanted me to be a little older, to do fully understand the implications of what it meant to have holes in my ears. She did this to me when I was 16 and 18 when I wanted multiple holes in my ears. It actually made me learn about sitting on it for a little while. So much so that I waited 20 years to get my tattoo and I gotta say I have no regrets now but I know if I got it at 20 I’d be regretting it. Sorry, I digress.

    As for my daughter, I had already planned on doing the same thing with her. So far she’s only asked in passing why her ears aren’t pierced, but if she shows more interest I’ll tell her she’ll have to wait. In the mean time I’d talk to her about it to get her comfortable. That way, when she turns 10 and is still interested then I’ll know it’s a genuine interest.

    It looks like you’ve gotten a lot of useful, helpful advice on the matter.

  16. Is there a ‘story’ about getting ears pierced? Could you make one and see what she thinks? And if she decides no then maybe Hello Kitty could be converted to clip ons 🙂

  17. I’d follow her lead and let her explore this. Let her watch it being done etc. if she only gets one ear pierced then that’s okay too. She may pull them out but the hole will close up and heal. My fear would be if she had a favorite pair of earrings and then she lost one…..sorry for bringing up another potential challenge.

    Do you have any clip earrings that she could just try on and see if she likes the “feel” of having something on her ears? Good luck.

  18. What does Luau’s gut say? Is she a pretty tough kid, as far as pain usually goes? I mean, ear piercings really don’t hurt much, but I don’t know what her individual threshold is.

    That’s a tricky one, but I’m sure mama knows best. No one knows your little one like you do, and I’m sure you’ll make the right call.

  19. My 8 yo daughter with Asperger’s just had hers done about 2 weeks ago. She up and decided she wanted to do it. We’d discussed it off and on for awhile. I was shocked b/c she has major anxiety issues with both medical procedures and doing stuff around her head ( think meltdowns at the dentist). I let her know that it was totally her decision and she could back out at any time. She had some major anxiety in the chair as they prepped her ears and I thought we were destined to bail on it- but not only did she go through with it, all she said when they did it was ” ow ow ow!”. It was a huge victory for a kid who wouldn’t let me touch her ears to clean them 2 years ago!
    So- I say keep introducing the idea, be honest about the process, and if she consistently wants to do it….she may just surprise you!

  20. I agree with the previous post in a lot of ways. I would certainly not go out tomorrow to do it. But, rather ask her everyday, maybe a couple times a day (after explaining that it will hurt a little – like a big pinch, but the pain will go away fast) and be sure that she consistently wants to do it once you have explained it a few times. If she still says yes, I would then take her some where that people get their ears pierced and let her watch. Maybe let her pick out her starter earrings (might even have Hello Kitty or someone else she prefers). If your ears are pierced and you don’t mind a second hole, let her see you or her older sister, a cousin, a friend… even DADDY get it done first. Don’t hide the pain – you don’t want it to be a surprise. I would also explain to her repeatedly that they have to be kept clean and rotated every day for a while also and that she may not touch them with dirty hands or take them out without mommy’s help.

    I might sound like a broken record, but I really do believe that we (or the “experts”) will NEVER truly KNOW how much a child on the spectrum understands, Low functioning, high functioning and everything in between – it’s impossible to know for sure and I do not doubt that we underestimate children ALL THE TIME. I bet she will “get it” after a couple days and make an informed decision – just make sure she knows she can even change her mind AFTER the earrings go in – all she has to do is ask mommy to take them out.

    Good luck! Hope that gut gets un-torn!

    Ps… and make sure you have more than one pair of the favorite earrings… just in case one gets lost!

  21. Let her know it will hurt at first, and let her talk about it with her sister about it and then if she still wants to do it just go ahead with it.
    She needs to know her mother will tell her the truth about things both big and small and she can act on that information.
    Every decision is difficult for a parent with or without autism as part of the issue.
    Love you,

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