What Do I Do?

There are times when the various people in The Boy’s life reach the end of their list of strategies, and pull back, saying, “I didn’t know what to do.”

It’s ok.

I’m his mom, and I reach that point quite a bit.

When Grammy reached this point the other day, I thought a bit about exactly what it is that I do when The Boy is heading toward a meltdown.

  1. Try to get him seated and then sit myself.
  2. Listen to what is making him upset.
  3. Acknowledge his feelings (“That is upsetting. I’m sorry.”)
  4. Offer to help – this usually is “not possible,” according to The Boy.
  5. Try to redirect the conversation from THIS HAPPENED to WHAT WE WILL DO ABOUT IT.
  6. Offer suggestions. If these are rebuffed, ask “What can we do?”
  7. Repeat 2-6 until he is calm enough to come up with a plan moving forward. It may make no sense. It may be fantastical or improbable. But looking forward allows him to move on from what was upsetting him.

This can take some time, or no time at all. I’ve found that #2 is the most important, and that if you do this process enough, it becomes easier and easier for him to process.

This is what we do. It may not work for you – every kid with autism is different. It has worked for us, and helps build our relationship each time.

It’s Been a Struggle – Update

Hey, there, friends. Long time no write on my part. I’m sorry about that. Between the election, NaNoWriMo, and some other stuff going on in our lives, my head has been swimming. I did pre-write some posts and schedule them, but not as many as I would have liked, so I’m checking in with you all today.

  • I woke up at about 3am this morning with the weight of the world on my mind. This has happened a lot since November 9. As I said in my last post, I’m very worried about The Boy’s future, more than I have ever been. His medical coverage is at risk, and that would affect us emotionally and financially. I don’t expect any progress at the national level in terms of increased programs for adults on the spectrum, either. Maybe this do-nothing congress that has been virtually re-elected will surprise me, but I doubt it will be in a good way.
  • The Boy has been struggling with some violence during his meltdowns this year, and I am investigating how we can best help him through this. We may be switching doctor’s offices, we may be switching medications (big yikes), and we may be looking into some therapy for him. It depends on what his insurance will cover. But he needs some help dealing with his anger (thanks a lot, puberty), and I’m at the bottom of my toolbox with nothing left.
  • I get my first Thanksgiving mini-vacation this year since 2012. Every other year in between, I had to work on some portion of the days surrounding the holiday. Starting tomorrow at lunchtime, I am off until Monday, and man,will that feel weird. Good weird, though.🙂
  • Then The Boy’s birthday is right around the corner. He’ll be 15. There goes my head, swimming again…
  • And the ex reached out post-election with an eloquent text saying he knew he had neglected his son and wanted to be a regular part in his life, promising to call every Sunday. That lasted exactly one Sunday, but I suppose his heart is in the right place. The Boy will be heading to his dad’s for Christmas, and I will miss him desperately.

So, my head continues to swim, which is better than sinking, I guess. I wanted to check in with you folks. It seems like it has been forever.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.❤

Broken

I woke up early today to get some more work done on my Nano novel, as I have been doing every day since November 1. But I can’t. No, I really can’t.

I stepped into my office and nearly retched. I saw one headline and began to sob. I knew the result in the wee hours, but the headline read, “What do we tell the children?”

My husband said I should stay home from work. He’s probably wishing I had stayed in bed so we could hold each other and put off starting this day a little longer.

But I didn’t. I got up, put my yoga pants on and came in my office to write. I took a quick detour to TheBoy’s room and held him tight for a moment, and now I’ve started my day.

I won’t miss work today, even thought we have suffered two sleepless nights and I still feel like I could vomit right here on the keyboard. I’ll get The Boy ready for school, and we will go about our normal routine. I will pull my loved ones around me like a cloak, and we will love each other, work hard, and play, just as we have.

I will also make phone calls and write letters until my local and state politicians know my name. Just because there is an R next to their name doesn’t mean they don’t work for me. And we have work to do.

Now that guy at the top? He doesn’t work for anybody. Don’t be fooled. Let’s just hope they gave him fake codes.

We have to sit tight and hunker down for three and a half years. And then we’ll have to make one hell of a noise if there’s anything left to fight for.

What do we tell the children? We tell them that sometimes even adults make mistakes, and that just like when you break a plate, saying you’re sorry doesn’t fix it, our country is broken right now. But when things get broken, we try to fix them first before throwing them away. And we’ll need their help to do that.

That’s what we tell them.

Musical Tastes & Control of the Radio

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The Boy has been showing an increased interest in the music playing on the radio lately, which I think is pretty neat. When he was much younger, I put some tunes on an old iPod shuffle I had for him, and hadn’t given it much thought after that, as he seemed to lose interest and move on to other things.

Now, he actively participates while in the car, sometimes hurrying to change the channel if he hears a group that he knows one of us doesn’t like, or he knows there is a swear word in it (thankyouverymuch, Satellite Radio). He will even bop his head along in time to the music. I’ve had to talk to him a bit about the unspoken rule that the driver gets to decide what is on the radio, which he doesn’t entirely understand or agree with, but he’s fairly respectful about it, anyway.

There are days when he even hops into my car, pushes the “Aux” button and hooks his iPad up to my radio, pretending that the radio station is playing a pre-selected song of his choosing, usually something by Daughtry (it seems he really liked listening to that group on that old iPod shuffle – go figure). He will even pretend to be the voice of the DJ playing the song.

What’s even cooler is that he is really listening and starting to have some favorites. He enjoys U2 and Mumford & Sons the most, along with Green Day (because his school band played a tune of theirs in 7th grade), and Daughtry (ha!), and turns up the radio accordingly. Having favorites is kind of a big deal in and of itself, because he has tended to be so attached to inanimate objects and things, he rarely picks a favorite anything, afraid he’ll hurt the other thing’s feelings… And remember when I told you I suspected he had perfect pitch? Yep, he has amazing auditory skills.

And then yesterday, he blew me away. We were listening to one of his pre-selected tunes, “21 Guns” by Green Day, and immediately remarked that this song reminded him of a song called “Apartment 4” that we used to listen to when he was a child by They Might Be Giants, as well as “Beverly Hills” by Weezer. If you listen to those links I’ve added for you (be careful of the Weezer link – couldn’t find a link to the song without the video!), you will have to admit that he is a discerning listener, and I’m pretty proud of him for that.

All of this makes me wish he could use these skills someday, but that may not be in the cards for him. In fact, there are very few people who get to listen to music and analyze it for a living. Truth be told, if it turns into a hobby, it is a very cool one to have. If he starts collecting records and asks for a record player for Christmas, I’ll let you know😉

Responsibility

I’m pretty lucky. The Boy generally does what I ask him to do. Unless, of course, he is in the middle of something. And generally, if I set a timer for five minutes or so, he will usually do it then.

Last Sunday, I decided that he should help me prep his lunched for the week. Pretty simple tasks involved, like counting 12 crackers and 12 pepperonis to put into snack bags. The cheese is a bit more complicated, involving a knife and cutting, but I figured he could help me with the bulk of it. I gave him five minutes, and he came to help, doing what I asked. My goal is to get him to the point where he can do this himself every Sunday, because why not?


It took awhile, mostly because he is so careful when he does tasks like this. It would have been much easier for me to do it myself, but then, I won’t always be there, will I?

Every time we do something like this, I give myself an internal high five, and The Man and I look at each other and say, “He needs to do more of this.”

I’m off to brainstorm more ways he can “help,” so we can add them bit by bit…

CBT & Flexible Thinking

As The Boy gets older, his anxiety becomes a bigger and bigger challenge. Since elementary school, he has had a preoccupation with absences at school. Not only his (he can tell you what date he had a dentist appointment and missed a day of school in second grade), but those of other students and teachers, as well. This preoccupation has become so intense over the past few years, that it has induced some anxiety attacks and meltdowns, interfering with his ability to function at school.

After a little research, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy seemed to be the way to go, and I went looking to see if there might be some therapeutic activities I could foster at home to help him become more flexible.

We are trying a visual weekly calendar (not monthly so it’s not too overwhelming), so he can see what is planned for the week. In addition, we have a post-it note where unexpected events are listed and crossed off upon completion. This is so that he has a regular spot to which he can refer to see and reassure himself about the change. And because these “unexpected” events occur quite often, hopefully he will begin to see that life goes on when these things happen, and as we say around here, we just have to “roll with it.”

I tend to forget how powerful visual images are for The Boy. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

 

Discussing Divisiveness

If you are in the US, and even worse, in a battleground state, you know that the election coverage, ads, and rhetoric are inescapable. Unfortunately, some of that rhetoric is not appropriate even for my 14 year old to hear.

But he is in high school, and I know he hears about this stuff at school, too. My challenge is to explain to him what’s going on.

I’ve explained recently that I’m a political being. I can’t escape it. I’ve always been interested in social justice, and politically active, even taking the young kiddo canvassing in 2008, when he was just six years old. I also take him with me when I go to vote. It’s an important part of being a US citizen, and I want him to understand that.

I also want him to understand why The Man and I speak about the candidates the way we do, and why we feel the way we feel. It’s harder because I know we are in the minority in our county. In fact, there will probably be very few kids at his school who speak about our candidate with any respect.

And as I explain to The Boy about the importance of being respectful of others’ views, I hesitate. I understand many of the complexities in this cycle, but The Boy does not, and truthfully very few high school students probably do either. Much of what he hears at school will be parroted from what is discussed at dinner tables.

He does not need to respect the view that woman, minorities, immigrants, and the disabled are less-than. He does not need to respect the view that making unwanted advances or physical contact with a girl is just something boys do. In fact, those are things that I am actively teaching him are wrong and dangerous.

So, in these justifiably divisive times, what do I say? I say that it all comes down to being nice. We choose not to support the candidate who says mean things about people. Because that’s not nice. We start there, and work our way to the other stuff. The other stuff that I shouldn’t have to explain to my kid , but now have to because an adult on the national stage, nominated for the most powerful position in the free world modeled incorrectly.

Facing Reality

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The Boy is 14, and will be 15 in two months. Old enough to take driver’s training. I don’t think there’s much out there that he would like to learn more than how to drive for real. He “practices” in the passenger seat often, rides the riding lawnmower without assistance, has driven go karts, and in general very much looks forward to the day when he can drive his own car. But will he?

I’ve talked briefly to him a few times about how his high school track will work out, how he will get some work skills, and concentrate on learning how to become an employee. But he still wants to be a band director. I think he still wants to go to college. And I know that in the strictest sense, he will not go to college as he envisions it.

He has dreamed about getting a blue Chevy Sonic to drive when he gets his license, but I had to break it to him the other day that it wasn’t going to happen, and that he needed to start saving if he wanted a car at all. A new car of his choice is just not in the cards.

When your kiddos are little, this all seems so far away, and the last thing you want to do is limit their dreams. But when it comes time to face reality, then what?

These are the things that keep me up at night as a mom to a teenage boy on the spectrum. It may not be all that different from being a mom to a neurotypical teenager, except that reality sometimes doesn’t make sense to a logical, autistic mind.

A Perfect Storm

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Yesterday, The Boy left his bag on the bus. Not his backpack, like he originally tried to tell Grammy when he arrived to their house. His “electronics bag” which he carries everyday and contains his iPad, his 3DS, his games, and all of his chargers. Cha-ching.

As soon as I arrived (after 5 o’clock), and determined what was really missing, I contacted The Boy’s teacher, who had contacted the vice principal who deals with transportation. He emailed back to say he would look into it in the morning. *sigh*

Remarkably, The Boy was not overly agitated or anxious, although when his laptop finally ran out of juice around bedtime (because his charger was in his bag left on the bus), he let loose a few loud and angry epithets, and I had to snuggle up next to him to calm him enough to sleep.

I also found out yesterday that his special ed teacher would be out today due to dentist appointments that she had forgotten about for herself and her two children. Ok. We’ll manage, I told her.

And then I received two texts from her classes (math and English) reminding us to sign and return a movie permission slip for today. Guess what? No permission slip was in his backpack. So who do I email? Weren’t we doing this dance a couple of weeks ago?

Finally, after emailing his elective teacher to explain that we would need one more night for a project, he emailed back to say it was no problem (yay!), and to explain that The Boy had a quiz today (wha?).

So today, The Boy has an absent teacher (check), a missing electronics bag (check), no permission slip (check), and a quiz (check). Everything will be fine, right?

Did I mention that we might get hit with Hurricane Matthew this weekend, and everyone is buying French Toast supplies (milk, bread), water, and generators at an alarming rate?

Everything will be just fine…

End of the Week Cha-cha

stairs-man-person-walkingThe Boy’s special ed teacher has been out since Tuesday this week at a conference. We prepped him for it, he met the sub the previous week, and we did what we could. And he did well. Until the end of the day Wednesday.

At home, we heard rumblings about having to leave school early again to catch the bus. With no special ed teacher to email Thursday morning about his anxieties, I emailed the principal. In the meantime, he had told the sub he was getting a ride home with me, and emailed me about “everyone being absent”. It resulted in two administrators being involved (the one I contacted and the one the sub contacted), and the TA being asked to send me an email, cc’d to a list of people about how he was just fine, and how they had adjusted to his needs.

M’k…

Today, just before 10 (middle of 2nd period), I got a call from the counselors office – The Boy was there and was a little agitated about all the people who were absent and wanted to chat with me. We chatted. He seemed better and we hung up. An hour later I got an email from him saying they were closing many schools due to the weather today. Again, I tried to reassure him. After 3rd period, I received another email from the TA (cc’d to a shorter list of people) saying he was fine in 1st and 3rd periods, but did go to the counselors office during lunch. Oh, and he was insistent that the football game tonight was cancelled and Monday would be a holiday.

I could go off about the TA obviously not having a clue about anxiety or anyone being “fine”. But I won’t. We obviously took some steps back this week, and may miss out on his second marching band performance if he’s still anxious this afternoon after school. But…

  • He vocalized his concerns, both at home and at school – self advocacy!
  • He made his own way to the counselors’ office when he was overwhelmed with anxiety!
  • He feels comfortable enough in his special ed classroom that his anxieties seem easier to manage there!
  • And the staff was responsive and patient with The Boy.

So while it pains me to see him struggling, he is making great strides at the same time. I am proud of him, and grateful to be in a school that seems to, for the most part, be willing to give him what he needs, even if it’s plenty of time to calm down.