I think I have a poor memory for emotional states. When Janey is happy for any length of time, I forget how hard the other times are. And when she's in a tough stretch, it's truly hard for me to picture how the good times feel. But I do, after this long, always keep in mind that her emotional states seem to change about every two weeks. I don't think she's ever had a very good stretch longer than two weeks. She's had a few bad stretches that lasted maybe a month, but the VERY tough parts usually, again, are about two weeks. The two weeks were up today, and on schedule, Janey broke down. She barely slept last night, waking over and over to cry. This morning, she was inconsolable for a few hours, just screaming, the new extra loud scream she's working on.
However, gradually, almost unnoticably, over time I am realizing that she is able, with our help, to get her moods under control a little better than in the past. It's not easy, but in the past, a mood like this morning meant the two weeks were starting, and that there was not going to be any letup for a while no matter what we did. But today, Janey is now at least calm enough to be switching shows around on Netflix, and she actually watched The Care Bears for about half an hour---the longest she's watched a show in a while. She truly does seem able to try, with help, to control her crying. I think she's maturing, and we are also learning a little what to say to her and do with her to help her. For example, this morning I realized she might be confused about whether today was a school day or not. Tony was home, but he was home for a long time during the shutdown, so that got confusing, and Freddy left the house around the time he'd usually leave for school, for the PSAT. So Janey might have been thinking "What the heck? Is it a school day or not?" I went over it with her, and whether that was it or not, it seemed to calm her down a little. We also fed her a lot, which is one of the more reliable ways to calm her. I dressed her---she doesn't care for lounging around in pajamas much, and I've figured out that with trial and error. Who knows how the rest of the day will be? But I don't feel desperate, as I have other days that started with crying.
I've heard from people with older girls or with adults with autism that it does get easier, and I think I can see how it works now. It's not a miracle breakthrough, it's not a real change in the autism or in parenting. It's little things, like gradually figuring out what sets Janey off and how to respond to her, or her learning, slowly but steadily, what we expect of her and how to control her emotions just a little. When I say slow, I mean so slow that years can go by and you don't see a change, but one day you realize---"Gee, it's been a while since Janey screamed for two weeks without stopping!" or "Janey was crying this morning, but just now she's not!" Baby steps. Things that parents with only typical kids might see as no steps at all. But I have to admit it's getting better---maybe not better all the time or so much better, so I can't totally quote the Beatles, but it's getting better.