A Mother's Breaking Point of Perseveration and Autism

I hate it. It rocks me to the core and makes my hair stand on end. Over and over, with no end in sight, she keeps repeating the same phrase. No matter what I try, I can’t soothe her. She just keeps saying it again and again and again. Make it stop. She has to stop. “JUST STOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPPP IIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTT!”

The scream came out of the blue, shocking me as much as it shocked everyone else. I couldn’t help myself. Debbie’s perseveration was never-ending. “No school on Monday!” “No school on Monday!” “No. School. On. Monday!” And then the hiccupping crying, followed by hugs and “I’m sorry, Mommy” and “I don’t like sighing.”

Then came the guilt. The guilt of having screamed at Debbie for something she could not help because she often has trouble expressing what she wants to say. The guilt of not being able to remain calm despite knowing she feels lousy due to a bad cold and cough. Tonight, I was guilty of not having enough patience to deal with perseveration and autism.

No excuses. Just guilt and remorse and sadness and tears. Then the calm. Vince came downstairs to act as a barrier to keep us apart, but Debbie wouldn’t let him. She came to me. She hugged me. She told me she loved me. I hugged her. I told her I loved her. Vince remained, leery that the storm might once again rear its ugly head. I gave her tea, Trazodone, and Tylenol. She took deep breaths. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. She finally communicated. Her head hurt. Her throat hurt. She sniffled and wiped her nose on a napkin. She drank her tea and we went upstairs.

“Do you want me to lie down with you and rub your back, Deb?”

“Yes. Lie down for a little bit.”

I lay down next to her and rubbed her back. I apologized for yelling. She forgave me.

“Do you want me stay or get up?”


I rubbed my baby’s back some more.

“Okay, Deb?”

“Get up.”

I got up, covered her, and left her room, guilt and remorse still permeating my thoughts. Later she came into our bedroom and plopped down on our bed.

“Halloween’s October. Thanksgiving’s November. Festival of Trees’ December.” Another perseveration.

“Yes, Debbie. Let’s go back to bed.”

“School’s on Monday. School’s on Tuesday. School’s on Wednesday. School’s on Thursday. School’s on Friday.”

Yet another perseveration. Sigh.

“Yes, Debbie. You’re right. School is next week.”

“Mommy, what are you making for dinner on Monday?” Another part of our daily autism routine.

“What do you want me to make, Debbie?”

“No meatloaf.”

“Do you want me to make meatloaf on Monday, Debbie?”

“Yes. Meatloaf on Monday!”

“Okay. I’ll make meatloaf. Let’s go back to bed.”

We plodded back to her room, and I covered her again.

“Don’t cover your head, Deb. You’ll be too hot.”

I leaned over to give her a kiss.

“I love you, Mommy,” she said as she kissed me.

“I love you too, Deb,” I said with a tired sigh.

The storm has passed for now. Perseveration was my breaking point tonight. Guilt and remorse are still there even though she forgave me so easily. Tomorrow I will try harder. Tomorrow I will be more patient. Tomorrow I will not let autism wear on me. Tomorrow I will not let it beat me. Tomorrow I will connect with someone who gets “it.”

xoxoxox ~ Julie


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Tomorrow I will try harder. Tomorrow I will be more patient. Tomorrow I will not let autism wear on me. Tomorrow I will not let it beat me. Tomorrow I will connect with someone who gets “it.”
Julie Brusio, educator, blogger, advocate and mother of autism