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…

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Up All Night

poor babyThe Boy is prone to abusing screen time past bed time.  This is a bad habit that has developed, and after last night, I know I need to do something.

Last night, The Man and I were awoken at a little after 2am by The Boy, pitter pattering about the house, doing whoknowswhat.  I got out of bed, caught him awake and bouncing around his room, and reminded him that after lights out, he was to stay in his room and sleep, unless he needed to use the bathroom.  “Oh yeah,” he said, “I remember.”  In the meantime, The Man had turned on the TV, which he does when he can’t sleep, and which also results in my not being able to sleep…  This isn’t going to work.

I had mentioned to The Boy several times in the past few days that once school started, we would need to re-institute “lights out” at 9:30pm (“lights out” doesn’t include his actual light – that stays on all night.  But I digress….).  I talked to him about school starting at an earlier hour this year, which made him nervous that we would bump back his bedtime.  I assured him that it would remain the same, but we really couldn’t be on the electronics all night long.  That really wasn’t gonna work.

This morning, I brought it up again.

“When school starts, your computer and your iPad are going to have bedtimes, too,” I said.  “But that means my iPad time will be limited again!” he replied, logically.  “Bedtime is for sleeping, and you shouldn’t be using your computer or your iPad past bedtime anyway, so it’s not really limiting your time.  We’re going to have to put them up for the night – their bedtime will be the same as yours.”

“Can they sleep right here?” he asked, indicating his bedside table with a twinkle in his eye.  I know that twinkle… “I think you might try to sneak and use those computers after bedtime,” I replied honestly.  “I won’t!!” he promised, but I know better.  “What happens if I catch you using it after bedtime?” I asked, reasonably.  He took a minute and then said, “Then you can take them and put them up somewhere else.”

Gotta love this.  Negotiating, advocating for himself, and determining his own consequences.

He’s growing up!

Earning Back the iPad: Self Advocacy

alarm clock, bought from IKEA

Originally, when I developed the plan for The Boy to earn back his iPad time, he would get his time back upon completion of the four-week chore program.

The Boy had a different idea.

He interpreted the plan to mean that if he did some chores, he would earn some additional time the following day, and when we talked about it, I realized that was a much better plan.  Immediate (or rather immediate) rewards work much better than delayed rewards.

So I amended the plan, and it seems to be a great motivator.  A little self advocacy at work from The Boy, and Mom learns something – win-win!

PS We purchased a Griffin Survivor case for the iPad, and so far we all like how tough it is!

Don’t Live in Fear of the Meltdown

I write this with the disclaimer that it is addressed to myself, as well as everyone else living with autism in their household.  I am painfully aware that this is an area of challenge for me, and I write this post with the hope that I will refer to it often to remind myself not to succumb…

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We bristle when people tell us that our children are “just spoiled,” and rightfully so.  The ex was convinced that my “coddling” of The Boy was his true diagnosis, not autism, and that if we just spanked disciplined him more, he would behave “better”.  This post is not to suggest that any of us are too lenient on our children.  No one knows our children better than we do, with the exception of the team of people that most of us have, the therapists, teachers and caregivers that help us raise our special, special children.

However…

We also pick our battles.  And you have to.  If he chooses a pink shirt and orange shorts that are way too small, we may just have to go with it because at least it’s not the pajamas he has worn for the past six days.  Refuses to eat vegetables?  That’s OK for now, because pizza is better than a diet of ice cubes…

But…

Especially as a single mom, I fell into a bit of complacency.  The anticipation of a meltdown would influence my decisions too much to the point that I was bending farther than I should.  And it wasn’t until I started dating The Man that this was pointed out to me.  At first I was furious, thinking he was telling me how to raise my son.  But he wasn’t.  He was just pointing out that The Boy really didn’t need to sneak that giant sucker into his room to eat right before dinner, and that it really was my job to call him on it.

Oh…  Yeah…  I’m the adult.  (Duh!)

And I have found that if I am consistent about calling him out on little stuff, he is less likely to get really agitated by it.  Last night, The Boy’s iPad time limit (instituted until he “pays back” his half of the repair bill) ran out, and he started to raise his voice when I insisted on taking it from the room.  It looked like he was going to blow it, but after some (albeit loud) whining, he accepted it without much further ado.

My suggestions are to avoid complacency and shoot for consistency.  All kids crave some structure.  The more consistently we provide it, I think the fewer big meltdowns occur from being called on what is actually poor behavior.  That’s my theory, anyway.

Now if I can just remember this 24-7…

iPads and Lessons

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We delivered the iPad to the repair place yesterday, and I think part of the lesson, why-we-shouldn’t-throw-iPads-when-we’re-angry, was the length of the drive to the repair shop, easily an hour and a half.  The Boy was not happy with the time involved, and I’m sure would not relish having to make that trip again, yet another thing to think about the next time he has an urge to take his anger out on his electronics.

I believe he also had a consequence for some behavior at camp yesterday (I say, “I believe” because no one from the camp mentioned it to me, but The Boy self-reported.  This could be encouraging, except that he sometimes makes these things up, and grossly exaggerates his offense, as well as the resulting consequence.  We really need communication logs…).  He explained that he was building a tower, and someone else kept knocking it down, so he said some not-nice things and had to sit out for parachute time, one of his favorite activities at camp.  When discussing this in the car, I brought up our old friend B.E.A.R. (Breath, Exhale, And Relax), a technique taught to The Boy in early elementary for diffusing his own anger.  I’m not sure how effective it has been over the years, but for whatever reason, it makes him giggle, and it also reminds him that there are other actions that he can take besides the obvious choices of throwing things, using not-nice words, etc.

The neat thing was, he made his own connection between the two incidents, and said that the next time he would Breathe, Exhale, And Relax instead of using not-nice words, and instead of throwing his iPad if he couldn’t reach Grammy on facetime.  Whoa.  Made his own connection, and used independent thought to find an alternative to venting his anger in a negative way.  To me, this is huge.  Way to go, little man!

Doozy of a Meltdown

Yes, we had a doozy the other night.  That tends to be the pattern with The Boy – really great for long periods of time, but when we have meltdowns, they are of the knock-down-drag-out variety.

And yet again, I don’t know that what happened the other night could be classified as a meltdown, but it sure left all of us reeling, and thankful it was over in the aftermath.

It started when The Boy’s netbook froze, and in his terms was “broken”, and couldn’t be fixed.  He would not allow me to look at it (go figure), even though I knew it was probably a quick fix.  He moaned about his computer for quite awhile, continuing to get ramped up.  Then he apparently attempted to facetime Grammy, and was unsuccessful, so he threw his iPad…

Yup.  Threw it.

The Boy loves his iPadThe screen already had a hairline fracture from when he accidentally dropped a piece of fiestaware on it several months ago.  This latest assault was much more aggressive, and caused MUCH more damage.  To the point I had to hide it, because I didn’t want The Boy to get hurt from the glass shards…  Bleh.  When it happened, he began wailing and screaming, as if his best friend had died.

Needless to say this went on for yet another while (past bedtime), and for many hours, we went through the cycle of me desperately trying to calm him down, getting him calm and leaving the room, and then hearing wailing again after 15 minutes or so.  We were doing this until after midnight.

It was important not to get upset with him for breaking it.  The last thing he would want to do in the world is break his iPad, so he clearly didn’t understand what would happen if he threw it (or didn’t realize through his haze of anxiety and anger until it was too late).  The iPad being damaged and out of commission for the time being is consequence enough.  I don’t need to throw my disappointment and additional punishment on top of that.

He is a much happier camper now, as I have given him a clear timeline on how we are going to solve the problem, and have been repeating it to him consistently.  It will take a few days for Mom to do research about the details of getting it fixed, no one is throwing it away (he is very scared of this), and then we will make some decisions about how we are going to go about it.  He will be working to pay for at least half of the repair, and I have told him that, as well.  Never hurts to throw in a lesson about the value of a dollar. 😉

I’m glad he’s feeling better, because my heart hurt for him the other night.