Week Three of ESY…or, as we call it around these parts, the next to last week of ESY

So far it’s been smooth sailing at summer school.  Maybe it’s because J hasn’t fully understood that THIS is the last summer school EVER, but I’ll take it as it comes.  He is happy.  He accepts that Thursday means three solid days of not going to school, and that Sunday means four consecutive days of going.  In Morse code, my dad would say, that’s O-O-O-H-H-H-H…that it sounds like OOOHHHH is no coincidence.

The ball pit project is progressing slowly.  In the meantime we are doing other things to make J more comfortable.  These are things, by the way, that appeal to his aesthetic, make him happy, and go a long way to drain my wallet.  He found string lights at Target that are covered with star-shaped paper lanterns.  We’ve pinned three of them to the ceiling, and they create a trail of stars that he likes to look at when he’s relaxing.  We’ve found tissue paper tassel garlands in pastel colors, and he likes to watch them move with the breeze from the ceiling fan.  Katniss Everdeen stands guard on his craft closet door downstairs, and watches over his sleep at night in his bedroom.  His pinup girls are now surrounded by glow-in-the-dark stars, and he has a flashlight he can point at the stars or the girls.  I don’t ask questions…I simply listen to what J wants.

His weight is holding steady, and he still likes going to the gym.  We will have to make adjustments very soon, though.  TGG has registered for classes at the university, and he will have to work and go to school so his chances to work out with J are limited to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays IF he can keep his current job.  It is quite possible that he will have to find another job that will accommodate his school schedule so all the exercising time will shift to us old folks…not that we don’t need it.

Of course, now I arrive at the sticky part of our summer: the thumb immobilizer.  Faster than you can say “comfort item” this little piece of hardware has become J’s best friend.  When separated from his new comfort item, J is a bit antsy.  When you make an assessment of movement for his fingers, thumb and wrist without the brace on, J will happily go ballistic on you.

I have figured out that this is J’s way of making sure that brace remains as a comfort item.  There are, and I’ve told him this, more convenient (and safer!) ways to get his point across.  The last time he threw a fit about this I took it off, replaced it with a significantly smaller, and not quite as comforting brace, and sent him to bed immediately.  The next morning, quiet and obedient as a little mouse, J did all his chores, and humbly asked for his bigger thumb immobilizer.  I took the time to have a chat with him, and -as much as he rolled his eyes- he got the notion that we’re just trying to help.

I know the absence of the brace upsets him.  I know that it, along with the many bandaids he wears on real and imaginary sore spots, reminds him of behavior that can cause harm.  My assumption, and I can only assume because of J’s difficulties in communicating more abstract feelings even with the Proloquo, is that he is using the brace as a shield against hitting his forehead.  TGG was never in the habit of grabbing J’s hand and making him slap himself (a game my older siblings called “why are you hitting yourself?????”,) but I think that J sort of envisions his hand as having a “mind of its own.”

Like other individuals in the Spectrum, J battles with OCD.  Things have to be just so, and it doesn’t always makes sense to the rest of us.  Maybe hitting his head is part of that.  Maybe J feels compelled to hit himself, and the brace plays the part of Jiminy Cricket.  Seeing those black straps encircling his thumb, wrist and forearm remind him that he hurt his hand hitting his head, and dissuade him from doing it again.  The problem is that I need to make sure that this is not a ‘forever’ comfort item…

And here come the timers, and the short pockets of time when J cannot have the brace.  He has become very dexterous at cutting meat, buttering bread, zipping up his pants, and so on with that thing on so I’ve had to go back to manners and socially-considerate behavior.  Mealtimes, bath-time, going to the bathroom…no brace.  Granted, he hems and haws, but…for the time being I have to deal with this part of the issue in the way that I’ve found most effective: timers.

So that’s where we are…

And with seven days of ESY left, we have another long spell of not having a school routine ahead of us.  When August arrives, and school begins, it is the beginning of the end…

But that’s a problem for another day…