June 21, 2016
The laugh roars up from his belly, a hearty chuckle we haven’t heard in weeks. My son is sitting on my lap almost doubled over from the hilarity of watching my husband wear his bedsheet like a hairnet and prance around the room (never a dull moment chez McCafferty.) When his father places it around his mid-section like a skirt, tears actually adorn Justin’s face as he watches in total concentration. He is engaged, amused, and completely captivated by the scenario unfurling in front of him.
We haven’t seen him this present in weeks. It is a joy.
For the past year or so Justin (and his family) have been struggling with his secondary diagnosis of OCD. Since there are no blood tests for autism and OCD it may seem like splitting hairs as to what is causing his incredibly compulsive behavior, and in the end it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that his obsessions with arranging, moving and angling objects always culminates in his being miserable with his organizing. As someone very bright once said “you are only as happy as your least happy child,” and unfortunately as Justin has adopted this behavior, he has become our least happy child quite often.
And I want so badly to help him.
We’re going both the behavioral and the medical route. The former has had some limited success, mostly due to the difficulty of implementing the procedures while trying to cook dinner/help Zach with homework/answer a text etc. The latter plan has not worked well so far. We tried a medication whose side effects were supposed to wear off after several weeks, and simply didn’t. We weaned him off when my gut told me these changes were not going to abate and immediately saw the return of our not-so-sleepy child, for which I am grateful.
For once, I don’t really have a plan B. And for this A-type mama, that’s hard.
There are other meds to try, all of which take weeks to fully implement, and all of which carry with them the potential for side effects. If I’m being perfectly honest I would consider just skipping meds altogether and dealing with the behavior which fortunately is not present his entire day, but I always come back up against two things- his unhappiness while in the throes of his OCD moment, and the fact that this will not be considered desirable behavior one day when he no longer lives with us.
And yes, that day is far, far away, but as my friends with adult autistic children keep reminding me, like winter, it’s coming.
Since Justin will be changing teachers and classrooms in just a few short weeks we’re going to table the “experimentation” for now, see how spring break goes, and hope that the lessoning of this behavior we’ve seen in the past few days will stick. Perhaps we’ll revisit the possibility of a new medication down the road.
It’s so hard for us to watch him go through this.
I can’t imagine how hard it is for him to actually live it.
As much as I write about the positive things this family had achieved with two children on the spectrum, I think it’s important to write about the hard things too. As I’ve written before usually the difficulties go in cycles, and I’ve gotten better at reminding myself of this as the years have passed. My fingers are crossed that this will pass, or lessen, too.
And if not, I’m going to remind myself of an impromptu headdress dance to get us all through.
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