There are some things I just don’t get. I do not understand how someone who refuses to eat lettuce without gagging, or walk on a beach barefoot, or wear a shirt with a collar because it’s itchy, can walk around sneezing and constantly blowing his nose without a complaint. It would seem to me that having a stuffed-up, runny nose would put someone with sensory integration issues over the edge. But not Cameron. He could be in a state of viral infection that would put most of us in bed for a day or two, and Cameron will just keep calm and carry on. That may sound great, compared to the option of having a hypochondriac constantly complaining about every little discomfort, and Cameron’s atypical sick male attitude does have its advantages. But I worry about Cameron’s ability to assess his own well-being, and to take the necessary actions when he’s ill. Can he really take care of himself, if he doesn’t even know he needs care?
A few years back, Cameron and I were at the mall, and he kept having coughing fits. The pediatrician’s office was right across the street, so I called to see if they could check him out quickly. As it turned out, Cameron had walking pneumonia! He was really sick, and needed to stay home a few days to fully recover. But had we not been together and had I not witnessed the struggles he was having, he never would have come to me to say he didn’t feel well.
I suppose a well-being assessment is a teachable skill. Cameron has learned that if he’s sneezing and his nose is running he should take his allergy medication. If his breath becomes wheezy, he knows to use his reactive inhaler. We’ve been fortunate enough that Cameron has rarely been ill. But that means that there is a missing learning experience of what to do next if an inhaler or allergy pill doesn’t fully do the job. So how do you teach hypothetical situations? It’s not dissimilar from teaching a trusting child about stranger danger, when the child thinks anyone who smiles at her is a friend. It’s a real challenge to come up with a wide enough range of hypothetical situations that will create a successful response in a real situation.
For now, I guess it’s on me to be observant, ask the right questions, and instill the right behaviors. When Cameron begs off from doing his chores, or shows a loss of appetite, I will know that something is truly amiss. It is in those situations that I need to be really conscious of demonstrating the right things to do when you’re sick. Thankfully he’s compliant, so if I tell him to drink plenty of water and go to bed early, he’ll do it, and maybe he’ll remember to do it the next time he’s unwell. I don’t know that Cameron will ever be truly in tune with his body, but there are ways he can be taught to keep his body in tune. They are important lessons, to be sure.