The tail-end of a week with claws…

It’s Friday.  I’m happy about this fact.  After Monday’s episode of Urgent Care/psychiatrist’s office mania, I’m glad we’re heading into a long weekend.  The middle of the week was not something I’m thrilled about either…  Early on Wednesday (a day that started OK and then I spilled a whole cup of coffee on the carpet) we got a robo-call from the school.  “An incident involving two students.  One of them has been taken into custody, and the other has been taken to the hospital for medical attention.”  If I had not spilled the coffee, I probably would’ve been sick to my stomach right then.

I called the school and J’s teacher told me that, yes, they were on lockdown, but that J was safe and sound, and doing well “under the circumstances.”  It took until nearly noon to hear the news report: a 17 year-old started an altercation with a 14 year-old who then took out a knife and stabbed the other.  At 3 P.M., when the bus arrived, the driver and aide told me that as they pulled up to the school, the police told them to stay on the bus with the doors locked until they were escorted into the building.  J, they told me, was calm and cooperative in the middle of all this.  The only time he got upset was when he was told that he couldn’t go to the lockers in the hallway because “of the clean-up.”

These incidents (whether they happen thousands of miles away, or nearby) always baffle me.  I can’t understand why people would interact in such a fashion, and I fear that it has become more “normal” than it should ever be.  The worst part is that the whole sordid affair made me feel like J’s problems are insignificant in comparison with what happened between these two kids.  I feel terribly guilty about this.  I don’t want to feel better about J because someone else has it worse.

On the same day as this happened, a glimmer of information headed our way.  J refused to work with one of the people who are part of the staff in his classroom.  Not only did he refuse, he refused when it was a task that he enjoys and that actually brings him quite a bit of perks.  During this particular task, J gets to socialize with others, listen to music, and has the chance to buy a snack.  This task comes every three days (for example: on Wednesday one week, then on Monday, and again on Thursday, and so forth,) and he’s only refused to do it when he has been assigned to work with the same person.  I discreetly asked if the person had been present during the Great Meltdown of September and the teacher discreetly responded “yes.”

We have, ladies and gentlemen, a hint of an antecedent.

I’m not glad that he could be set off by someone who works with him.  I wish I could tell you that this is the solution to the problem, but it isn’t.  If anything, it’s turning the situation of dealing with the sudden onset of behavioral issues all the more delicate a matter.  This is not something to be taken lightly, and we need to consider that -while J might feel aversion for this person- other kids benefit from the presence and contributions of this one member of the staff.  My son doesn’t rule the roost, and he cannot be the one who determines whether one person should or should not be near him.

J doesn’t dislike people randomly.  There’s usually a reason for his reaction, and I’ve seen it happen with several people who, ultimately, had to be phased out of his routine.  When I look at the situation through my adult eyes, I think he’s being persnickety, but when I see it from J’s perspective, I can tell that he has good reason to turn against certain individuals.  J, like his peers, can often sense discomfort in others more easily than a neurotypical child.  J also can sense when a person doesn’t trust what they’re doing, when they’re uncertain of how to proceed.  J and his peers tap into an instinct that, as neurotypical beings, we often relinquish in the name of civility.  I cannot fault him for using this to make up for whatever “disadvantages” in perception his Autism might cause.  So far it has served him well.

Until we can figure out a better way to deal with this animosity and its repercussions, J has been reassigned to other duties on days when he’d have to work directly with this person.  I’m fine with that solution.  I understand that we can’t change the rotation of the planet to accommodate J’s needs, but I’m also keeping in mind that we might have to come up with more concrete and long-term alternatives in this particular department.

But it’s Friday, and the day is cold and crisp.  And the weekend is a long one, and we have things ahead of us that we want to do.  This can wait until we all sit down and call a horse a horse, and until we say “this is what we need to do.”  Before then there’s some thinking that needs to happen, some planning, some adapting J’s reactions in a positive way.

At least now we have a little more to go on, right?  That’s part of the game…a clue, and then…little by little, we figure things out.

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Re-inventing the wheel…re-discovering fire…

J’s meltdowns at school have become a problem.  His teacher, bless her heart, is bound and determined to figure him out, but I can hear in her voice that she is slowly fraying around the edges.  I don’t blame her.  If it sounds horrible over the phone, the wailing and thumping in the background like the cheesy disco song during the tournament in The Karate Kid, it must be even worse in person.

What am I saying “it must be???”  I’ve been there, done that, and suffer from a weird form of PTSD that sends shivers down my spine when I recall the incidents I used to witness.  That poor woman needs a raise, a bottle of wine and a nice vacation in a sandy beach…

Yesterday was a lulu…  In the morning I got a call from the teacher telling me that J was not only unruly and cantankerous (she IS a rather generous spirit,) but was also complaining about his throat.  As he screamed, she said, he gagged as if about to vomit.  When given the iPad to tell us what he was feeling, J decided to go for the gusto: CHOKE CHOKE CALL MY FAMILY CHOKE CHOKE FEVER…all this while wailing in a way that indicated his airway was in no way constricted.

How fast do you think we got him and then headed to Urgent Care????  I think we broke a record.  There we were: Dada chewing his nails and looking as if he needed a shot of whisky; I was on the brink of hyperventilating while having a hot flash…and J as cool as a cucumber and asking to go to the bathroom.  A more ridiculous sight has not been witnessed in the Urgent Care since the last time J complained of some imaginary malady that sent us all running, scrambling, leaping over obstacles like the Keystone Kops.

There was NOTHING wrong with J.  Back home they call it poca vergüenza...very little shame.  Well, he has a galloping case of poca vergüenza.  As soon as we got home (Dada dashing back to the office to deal with the overwhelming load of work he has day after day,) J had the unmitigated gall to declare it A Fun Day.  His mother, who deemed it too early to dig a hole and hide in it, put the kibosh on that notion in a hurry.  There were chores…there was an abundance of NO being bandied about.

At 3 o’clock we marched into the psychiatrist’s office.  The man, finally, earned the not-insignificant fee we pay him.  Ok, he didn’t SOLVE the problem, but at least this time there was plenty of crap to listen to, and we spoke at length.  His conclusion?  J might be going through a period of re-setting and we might witness a regression before we move forward.  “Do you want to go ahead with the next med reduction?”  A chorus of NO replied to that one.

Today wasn’t much better, but we’re determined to figure this out…foolish little souls that we are…

From the moment he came home, I IGNORED the fact that he was behaving like a complete and utter BOOR while I was on the phone with his teacher.  Meekly, he asked for his snacks, and I calmly said “yes, of course, dear…as soon as you vacuum your carpet, dust your shelves and bring the laundry downstairs.”  I didn’t mention head-thumping, wailing, screaming or being an ASS…I’ve just kept him busy since he got home seven hours ago…

I’ll let you know how tomorrow goes, but for the time being I wouldn’t expect unicorns, rainbows or candy canes…  Hopefully, it doesn’t get worse before it gets better because I am -quite frankly- running out of reasons, ideas, and energy to re-invent and re-discover in order to unravel this mystery.  I think I am definitely getting too old for this crap…maybe????  Whether I am or not, it’s back to the drawing board as often as it is needed, as messily as it is required.

And, with that, October is done…

Halloween has come and gone.  If I’m not mistaken, judging by the amount of leaves, debris, broken branches and such, October flew out of here with last night’s storm.  November was ushered in in the same fashion; there was a power outage in the wee hours of the morning, and a 2-hour delay was called at 5:30 a.m. by J’s bus driver who heard it from the bus depot.  The call from the school didn’t come until six, and I was grateful that we’d had an earlier unofficial call or J would have been in the middle of getting dressed and “bringing him down” from that level of concentration would have been hard on everyone.

The fact that there was no snow on the ground confused J.  This type of delay is something he relates to snow.  I quickly changed the board so that it reflected some at-home time and chores before the BUS and BACKPACK.  This didn’t stop J from checking the board every five minutes to make sure I hadn’t removed his beloved BUS and BACKPACK.  If only he understood that I only take those down as a last resort…never voluntarily unless he’s sick!!!

This unexpected change in plans, in spite of our concerns, did very little to ruin J’s day.  He came home smiling from ear to ear, and there was no note in his comm book.  This either means the day was OK or the teacher is still trying to find words.  I’d rather think the day was OK.  On the plus side, and this HAS become a sign of what kind of day he’s had, he didn’t hand me a ziploc bag and ask for ice.  He also didn’t upgrade to a tumbler and a whisky bottle…

From all the information we’ve been gathering here and there (and, no, still no actual reason on why J exploded to the point he did that One Day at School,) J’s issues are stemming from his schedule.  I seriously think it’s some weird strain of boredom, and I dread the process of figuring out what to do to solve this.   At home I can resort to just about any hare-brained idea that pops up in my seriously overworked brain; I have a population of ONE that I’m serving.  At school…the options are limited because the population is bigger, and focusing on J takes attention away from his classmates.  This would not be fair, and it is not expected by us.

That’s the quandary of every parent, isn’t it?  Our kids are important.  Our kids deserve attention.  Our kids are singles among many.  It’s impossible to please each and every set of parents all the time, but that doesn’t stop many parents from expecting just that.  I don’t envy teachers.  If they have kids of their own, there’s no escaping children all day.  If they don’t have children, there’s no escaping the fact that they are the number one thing they will deal with, day in and day out, for as long as they choose to teach.  On top of that, children have parents…and there’s a lot of paperwork that must be generated about each student to document everything to the parents’ satisfaction.  Any wonder why I didn’t want to stick with being a pedagogue????

We are working on counting from 1 to 30.  This is going well.  Some days.  Before launching into this new territory, I had to work on teaching Dada the signs for 21 through 30.  Because he will be called upon to take over counting duty, he has to be able to do this without me present.  Dada is a bright man, but ASL is not his forte.  If I’m there, he can easily mirror, but if I’m gone he gets distracted by whatever J is doing.  So we work for a few days, just the two of us, and I randomly call out a number and he has to sign it.  This is going well.  Some days.

Last night we were working on numbers 5 and 14.  J selected them from the Big Box of Number Cards.  He counted the beads, completed the worksheets, dutifully participated in the whole process.  My son, the mercenary, wants stickers for his worksheets, and he was putting extra effort last night because I had just opened a brand new package of stickers.  Disney stickers.  These he picked out from all the ones we had in the basket.  He picked these and ignored Dora the Explorer.  I was NOT expecting that.

Anyway, when we got to the worksheet for 14, J was in a very good mood.  He was chirping and singing, enjoying the colorful beads that we keep in the big plastic tray on his desk.  Such big fingers as he has make the beads look tiny when, in fact, they are of a fairly good size.  I don’t want to buy him the very big ones because they look to him like Duplos look compared to Legos…obviously intended for the younger set.  I respect that about him; he will go along with the beads and the cards, but he doesn’t want to be working with beads clearly meant for Kindergarten classrooms.  The sheet for 14 had an exercise with boxes where he had to write the numbers that missing from the sequence.  Mind you, those are numbers he knows because I’ve seen him writing them over and over, but last night -perhaps because it was Halloween, and he’d had candy at school and there was a great deal of mirth spilling into the house every time the doorbell rang and a chorus of “trick or treat!” came in floating in the breeze- our son was in a rather impish mood.  The spot where 3 should be written got an F and a giggle; the spot for 6 got LO and an even more mischievous giggle; the spot for 12 generated a rather contagious peal of laughter.  By the time he correctly wrote 14 in the last box, he was laughing, we were laughing and TGG came into the room laughing because he heard us over the baby monitor.

It’s hard to be pessimistic about the year when things like this happen.  Even if J IS hitting his head and being a pain.  It’s going to be fine, right?  Here and there we’ll come up with things that will help us figure out what to do; now and then we’ll reach for ice in a ziploc bag, but we’ll also have things like FLOM written on worksheets and laughter interspersed throughout.

Huzzah!  It’s November!