Holidays are over. THANK GODDESS! Why? Because though there is fun with friends and family, it feels like everything stalls. We had several breakdowns, both adult and child alike. Sometimes, you never know when a child with ASD is going to react poorly to criticism.

Spawnprime, for example, some days, and actually it is quite often, will nod and say “okay, mom.” and correct his behavior. But other days, it’s the end of the world. We have sulking, and moping, and the recoil into himself, so that he is no longer able to communicate with anyone else. I feel lucky, really, as much as it bothers me in the moment. I know, in my head, that it could be much worse. But in my heart, in the moment, it is little pieces of ice sticking like needles in my heart.

I am very active with parent support groups, and I am new to them all. What scares me is… puberty. Prime will be ten soon. It won’t be long until he begins to have those changes, and I am not certain I will be ready. What if he becomes violent at home? Yes, I am borrowing trouble. But he already has problems at school with hitting when he is angry or frustrated. Will I be the one with the shiner one day?

Best not to think on that at this point. Best to look at what is going on now. So what is going on now? Outside of my own feelings of inadequacy. Well, Back in school, so I have a few hours to go to said groups in the morning and get things done. Then it’s pick up the twins, and give them the time needed with mommy, before picking up Prime and working on homework, playing, then trying to get everyone to clean the house amid Prime’s complaints of “I didn’t do this, why do I have to clean?” over, and over, ad nauseum. Perhaps that is my biggest problem… the constant questions. I know I get irritated when people ask me the same question over, and over again. If I have to tell you more than once, I feel I am not being listened to.  This goes for adults and kids alike. though I do have more patience with the kids than with adults.

I have raised my kids that I do not ask twice to have things done. I have raised my kids to obey a request as well as a command. Yelling happens, and we are all working on changing that part of our interactions. The past several days we started it. It is my biggest downfall. Resorting to a loud voice. And I am working hard to make that not happen any more.

So now it’s all about getting back into our routines. Relaxing on weekends… maybe do some grocery shopping. Looking at Work From Home things to do. Getting help in that from online friends. And just, generally, trying to improve our situations, and head things off before they become a problem.  On a more personal note, I’m quitting smoking. The depression that has come along with it is overwhelming, hence part of the reason I have not posted in a while. I have realized this, and contacted my doctor, so I can go back to being the productive person I want to be. And my wonderful mom and dad bought us a yearlong pass to a place called Fairytale Town. The kids loved it. And we plan to use that as our escape place for this next year. I think we need a fun place to go to, at least once a month!

Puzzle pieces of love!

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I think the world in general looks at holidays as a time of love, and laughter, and being with friends and family. I used to feel the same way.

These past two weeks have been a roller coaster due to various reasons. But the one I am talking of today is the drastic change in C since thanksgiving.

C has been, at least within the family and with adults, a loving person. But what I am seeing now is a lack of self love. Sure, he knows he is smart. He knows somewhere in there that he is loved, I think. But it breaks my heart to hear these comments, which are fairly common these days…

“I don’t deserve to eat.”

“Just send all my stuff back. I don’t want it, or deserve it.”

“What’s the point? I’ll never change no matter how hard I try!”

“I wish I was never born.”

 

So, whereas he isn’t suicidal, I believe he has been knocked down. And where did all this come from, anyway?

Well, it came from him lying to me… repeatedly… over the last several weeks. Indeed, he had an ear infection. I gave him leeway on that for almost 2 weeks. Yesterday, I finally took him to the doctor. “He says his ears are still hurting him.” the doc replies.. “There’s no reason. His ear infection is cleared up.” And I almost lost it right then and there. Instead, I looked at him, we went to the car, and I meted out the consequence of his actions. “You lied, so the consequence is that you get your stuff taken away.” And then he started in on the things that I listed above.

Is this my fault? Partly. I go to meetings every friday (when I can) to discuss life in general, and work on parenting techniques. And somewhere along the way I started to use shame as my way of dealing with the kids. I don’t mean to… And until today, I didn’t realize it. Now, I know what I need to change about me. but what about him? How do I help him to see he is valuable, cared for, and loved? He’s not generally a bad boy, but is making rather bad decisions right now. and my heart breaks as I think… “Will he ever go back to the happy go lucky child that I remember from years gone by?”

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Thanksgiving. A week of family, cooking, kids running in the yard? Nope. This thanksgiving, we are calming meltdowns, our butts are numb, and we are generally cranky. But it is only Tuesday night!

So, yesterday, we drove dad to work, came back home, packed the last minute things, because heaven forbid the twins not have twilight sparkle and rainbow dash! Got the dogs packed into the car, and started our adventure. If only it were that easy.

Monday morning was spent, mostly, sighing, screaming into pillows, and generally fighting fires. Since it is so early in our lifelong adventure, I have a hard time with this part. It was a simple statement. “Thirty minutes, and then it is your sister’s turn on the wii.” Here I am, cleaning up, getting the stuff the kids couldn’t do without making a bigger mess.

Next thing I know, the wiimote is heard hitting the floor, my son says quietly to his sister, “you can do it. I will always be a failure at everything!” Then the door to his room slams. I give him credit, his tone to his sister was not angry at her. It was defeated, but without the usual snide snottiness. I decided to wait, as my heart broke while he sobbed in his room, to talk to him. I wanted him to let out the frustration. Half an hour later, I hear banging, and find him hitting his head against the wall with quite a bit of force.

As soon as I spoke, he stopped. I pulled him into my arms, and we went to my bedroom, to talk over what happened.

An hour later, we are calm, and looking up inspirational quotes about no such things as being a failure. He is starting to smile again. I acknowledge that he was sad, and explained to him why I didn’t come to him right away. We found something better to do. A multiplayer Mario kart type game. Something all three of the kids could do while I finished packing.

Will it always be a two and a half hour ordeal every time he gets a meltdown? I hope not.

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For anyone who does not know, autism has a wide range of disorders. Some are non functioning, where the people seem to not be able to interact normally with the world. Others are high functioning, such as Aspergers. My son is incredibly intelligent. Even now, he tests well beyond his grade level.

There is something different with the way his brain works that makes this possible. He has such a literal and black and white view of the world. His interests are small. But he can tell you almost anything about anything he has studied.

Aspergers is defined by the NIH as

Asperger syndrome (AS) is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

So let’s see…. Interest in only a few things at a time…. Check. Problems communicating…. Check. Not understanding social cues…. Definitely. Repetitive behavior…. Depends on how exactly you see it. If you mean never really learning from his mistakes in a conventional way, then yes.

You see, my son loves adults and hates most kids his age. He would rather stay home, read his books, before going to school. He cannot stand loud noises, or grit on his hands. It has been this way his entire life, even as an infant. And these are just a few things. The list if idiosyncrasies he has goes on. My heart breaks when he comes home from school feeling rejected, and depressed. Even more so now that I know he has had past thoughts of suicide.

Am I a bad mother? How did I not see this earlier in his life? I can only attribute it to pure ignorance. I was twenty two when he was born. Young and usually healthy. I partied, but I also took care of myself, and while overweight, I was not morbidly obese. I had the world in front of me, ready to go. I never wanted to think of my child as anything outside social views of normal. But I love my kids, and want what is best for them. And if that means changes, so be it!

As I have mentioned, two months ago we started Chris on therapy again. The second intake session we did, we were given our preliminary diagnosis of Aspergers. Where he falls, whether it be mild, moderate, severe, with or without other mood disorders, etc…. Is to be determined. You can’t really clump people with any kind of ASD together. You can give them all the label, but each one will be unique in what they do, how they handle things. And I feel it is important to hold on to that thought, that our child is unique. Different, or not normal, have become negatives in this world. It is getting better, but the world has a long way to go in the destruction of the ideas of normal, especially in the US.

On Thursday, we met with our actual therapist. He seems to be a hardworking and caring man. He gained a plus in my book when he told me that he utilizes music in his therapy. At some point, I may be able to return to school, and become a music therapist. But for my child, I put that aside. And I am completely OK with that. I know, eventually, my time will come. Or my life will change, and I will have a new dream project.

However the winds of destiny may blow, I am grateful for where I am now. I truly believe that our city was where we were meant to be, for our entire family. We may not be rich, but it gives me the ability to stay home, and do the bi-weekly therapy appointments, the doctors visits, the small every day trips to and from school. It may not be much, but my son and daughters deserve this attention, and knowing that both their parents will do whatever it takes to be there for them. The resources that have become available to me are extraordinary.

So, having gained more insight into why my son is as he is, and knowing that my decisions were right, to seek out help for him again, and to be there to run to the school at a moments notice, is worth it to me. With knowledge of change, and how to help him deal with it, we will embark on a weeklong road trip from Northern California, to Southern California, and back again. Three children, four dogs, and two adults, all crammed into a minivan with luggage and food, and then away we go, in time for thanksgiving.

I know he looks forward to the trip. Will it be a better trip than the move itself when we came up here seven months ago, because of the new knowledge I have gained? Only getting up and doing it can tell!

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All of us begin, before even our first sonogram, imagining how perfect our children, and our lives as parents will be. We’ll have the nursery in these colors, He’ll play sports, or be intellectual. She will take after mommy, and have poise and grace. We will be loving, considerate, kind parents, who teach our kids the way of the world with a stern but soft voice, as we remember being yelled at and not liking it. We will not give into the frustrations, we will be awesome parents who can be a multitude of things. Teacher, supporter, shoulder to cry on, a friend, someone to laugh with. Someone for our children to look up to and admire. And we will be proud of our children, all the time, twenty-four-seven. This was what we imagine. These are our dreams.

Unfortunately, life does not always give us the information we need for these dreams to come true. Nine years ago, when Chris was born, I had problems from the start. Spotting during the pregnancy, even after the first trimester, trouble eating through most of the pregnancy, especially eggs. rapid weight loss followed by an astronomical (to me) weight gain. Then came the big day! Excitement coursed through us as we went to the doctor, and then were told to go to the hospital. Dialated, without the water being broken. It was felt to be in the best interests of both myself and chris to induce labor. insufficient Cervix, I believe they called it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was extremely blessed with the pregnancy. I didn’t have any of the scary complications like preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes, or low amniotic fluid. I got healthier in my eating, stopped the smoking and drinking and party girl life that I had with my then fiancee. But when the time came, my son was stubborn. After several hours of a pitocin drip, walking, and generally feeling fine, I was contracting, but my amniotic sac still hadn’t ruptured. At this point, I was in very little pain. My doctor decided to take the biggest freakin’ crochet hook I’d ever seen at that point and break my water.

After that, it was very scary. My body didn’t stretch the way it was supposed to. I had severe complications, and quite a bit of blood loss. I had to be sedated again after delivery, so that I could be stitched back together. I was on a liquid diet, then soft foods, before being able to return to normal. And the milk of magnesia and mineral oil taken several times a day after was the nastiest things I ever had to ingest. But, for the sake of my health and my child, I sucked it up, and did as the doctor said.

Fast forward several months. Looking back, I realize that many of the things I thought were just little oddities specific to my child, could actually have been signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He couldn’t stand to be put on grass without something covering the grass. He didn’t like to get dirty. He couldn’t stand loud noises. He hated taking baths (and still does). What child doesn’t like to play in water? It was all told to me that these were things he would likely outgrow.  He began to talk, and it was amazing. He didn’t want people to read to him, but he wanted to do it on his own, in his own way. He laughed, and cried, and for a long time, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect child.

Now this is not to say he didn’t go through stages as every child does, of biting, or hitting… But overall, he was well behaved. He did not like regular baby food. Sure, he would eat it, but he’d rather have something like what mommy and daddy had. He didn’t like sauces of any kind. Ketchup, mustard, mayo… If you used any of these things, he would refuse to eat. Even spaghetti had to be plain. We made do with it. We made him try new things, and eventually spaghetti sauce was handled, but if he can have it plain, he still prefers it that way.

Kindergarten was amazing. I had just had his sisters, our twins who are four, and We could afford daycare for them, so I went and began to volunteer at school. We had some issues, such as wetting his pants (though he had been potty trained for a long time) when things got overwhelming for him. But there were no real fights, though there were conversations of “Why can we not show our affection by hugging people?” or “Why is kissing someone so bad? We do it at home all the time!” Because the school had a strict no touching policy. And it wasn’t because they did not want children to touch or interact… but at five, it’s hard to understand that not everyone wants to be as touchy-feely as your family is. Overall, a great first year, right?

Then we had to move. We timed it in such  a way that the kids would have a chance to settle in, make their rooms their own, and get adjusted over the summer. We started a new school. That is when we started realizing something was wrong. There were constant fights. He started lighting things on fire. He was constantly angry or withdrawn. We chalked most of it up to Daddy working far away (he kept his job back in the old city) And Mommy all of the sudden having a job that kept her away for basically three days straight.  There were days off school, suspensions, talking back. He refused to want to go anywhere with us at times, and other times where we couldn’t pry him away from me. To him, nothing was ever his fault. The other kids picked on him. He was bored in school (which wasn’t surprising, given that he was reading at least one, if not two, grades higher than the rest of his class) He was clumsy, and always hurting someone else because of it, or hurting himself.

For the first time in my life, in the five years I had been a parent… I felt like I was failing my son. Eventually, I was given information for a therapist. I had people telling me that my son’s actions were because I was not a parent who spanked. Eventually, I gave in to peer pressure, and started to spank my children. It may work for some, but I am a person who doesn’t believe that fear equals respect or love. And eventually my kids started begging me to stop hanging around with certain people. They wanted to go visit their friends who were the children of the parents, but they didn’t want me to leave them alone with these parents, for even a short amount of time. Seeing that affect on my children was a life changer. I saw something was wrong when they finally spoke up. After going against my instincts, and leaving my kids with a parent for an hour, to return to the youngest twin crying as if she was just beaten within an inch of her life (though there were no marks on her) nothing mattered more than my kids. If I couldn’t work for whatever reason, I called in sick. My focus left my friends, leaving me fairly alone. In the process of all this, We got therapy for my son, more for his anger and lack of communication than for anything else.

During all this, my fiancee, who was now my husband, had found a new job. It was 500 miles away from home. We only got to see him once a month. It was stressful for all of us. I stopped inviting friends over. I stopped going to things, unless my parents made me. Looking back, I was severely depressed, and couldn’t figure out what to do to change it. I began seeing a therapist. She suggested I start a journal, which I was good with initially, and then would just feel too tired to do after a few weeks, and slacked off. But between my own therapist and my son’s, we began to communicate more. And his behavior at school seemed to improve.

Eventually, we could not afford two households any more. Unfortunately, this move had to be made near the end of a school year. I was not about to leave my son in the hands of anyone who thought spanking was a good idea. I’m sure it was fine for their kids, but for my son, who couldn’t stand loud noises, to be yelled at and spanked, I had found was a recipe for disaster. And now being eight, he did not understand why he could not sleep on the couch at a friend’s house until the end of the year, or live with grandma and grandpa (who had just moved an hour away) and still go to his school. Once again, we saw anger and frustration from him, but it was at home. Sure, he’d come home from school and ask when we were going home, but he wasn’t hitting random people who upset him. I thought that perhaps things had changed, he’d gotten better with the therapy. A good summer, then off to school again. But the winds of life changed, and then my son was back into old habits.

This school year alone, he has been sent home a few times, been in the office countless times. Suspended once. The “I am being bullied” excuse he was so fond of no longer works, because his teacher is extremely anti-bullying, and is very careful with that. I know he doesn’t see things this way, but I believed this school would be best for him. I actually still do, despite some frustrations I have had.

Two months ago, we started him up with mental health services, after a few weeks of constant fights, We developed a Student Success Team(SST). I did not know that this is a precursor to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). I have no problems with my child being on any of these… as long as it is for his own good. Why label things as more than they are? I shall talk more about SST’s, 504′s, and IEP’s in the future.) The second visit we had, we finally began to see a road to recovery, and whereas after researching behavior problems I had an idea, it was still a bit of a shock. MY son had Asperger’s Syndrome….

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