December 7, 2010


Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , at 9:07 pm by autismmommytherapist

Rip. Yell. Repair.

That’s pretty much been the state of affairs in our house with Justin since the spring, when a succession of illnesses felled him and the OCD component of his autism came back in raging force. This scenario was particularly difficult for us to adjust to given that we’d spent a few months in what we liked to call “Camelot”, a period in which both boys were usually sleeping through the night (my favorite part), Justin had almost completely quelled his aggressions, and my youngest had made so much progress one of my best friends mock-accused me of faking his autism to make my book longer.

Yes, he’s really autistic. Yes, I have the report to prove it. And yes, we’re still friends.

We knew immediately that the compulsive aspects of Justin’s disorder were back in full form because he unfortunately began exhibiting those frustrating body tics again, the ones in which he shakes his head back and forth so hard I can only imagine whiplash would be a gentler outcome. This time they only lasted for a few weeks, a boon for which both me and his father were grateful. We’ve tried several different medications over the years and dabbled in the world of biomedical alternatives, but after our son has suffered through high fevers, these tics always seem to be the remaining unwelcome guests in our house.

Autism is just such good fun.

To be perfectly honest, I was so grateful to see the swaying leave so relatively quickly that I failed to really notice how a few other unpalatable activities were left in their place, such as the need to tear to shreds anything imperfect within a five-mile radius (hence why my pediatrician removed her remaining wallpaper and painted her waiting room pastel pink and blue), as well as my son’s desire to leave any location outside of his home in under thirty minutes. We subsequently sailed into summer which is always our best season here, and got caught up in a last-minute switcheroo of schools for my oldest, in which the inherent drama of the change took us well into September. As I’ve mentioned before, this has been a REALLY good year for all of us, and so I chose for a time to focus on the positive and ignore for a few months that my son has become “Captain Destructo”, and an episode of “Cake Boss” (yum!) lasts longer than any of our outings.

Denial is a wide, wide, river.

Throughout early fall the realization that these issues have not improved has finally caught up with me, and I acknowledged to myself it was time to exit Shangri-La (okay, OUR version of idyllic) and get back on the ABA horse and ride. I also admitted to myself that part of my reluctance in trying to “fix it” revolved around the fact that I’ve been at this for seven years, at times have handled the majority of his behaviors on my own, and I’m just damn tired.

Thankfully, “Miss M” has come to our rescue.

One of the benefits of my son attending his new school is that they have several Board Certified Behavior Analysts in residence, all of whom actually make house calls. On the day they accepted him I put our names on the waiting list, hopeful that we could at least minimize these two issues that were still plaguing us almost daily. Within two months we rose to the top of the list, and “Miss M” made her appearance at our home for her “get-to-know” you session. She was able to leave me with advice on Justin’s first issue immediately, namely the destruction of any paper or plastic product that offended his eye, and I quickly implemented her counsel.

I realized that intellectually I knew what to do with him to reduce this behavior, but I’d been hung up on the fact that due to laundry/”cooking”/potty training/keeping the second child alive I hadn’t always been able to confront him immediately after he altered something, and that had kept me from making him fix things. Once “Miss M” assured me that the important factor was to force him to repair whatever he destroyed, make said repairs highly annoying (I’m good at that part), and stick to my guns even if the renovations took place six hours later, I knew what to do. I’m happy to say we’ve seen a lessening of destruction, a fact which probably saddens Zachary because he LOVED to tattle on him.

Autism or not, they’re still brothers.

His second and most daunting issue, his desire to leave the premises in the amount of time it takes to watch a sitcom, will be more difficult to handle, but “Miss M” is confident. I’ve shared with her that part of the problem is Justin’s outgrown many of the activities that made him so happy over the years, because although he’s autistic, cognitively and developmentally he’s often peer-appropriate. Frankly, the museums for kids under six and most local playgrounds just aren’t doing it for him anymore. He would kindly prefer to go to Great Adventure every day, and if I’d let him, frequent the section of terrifying roller coasters I refer to as the place where mommy will undoubtedly stroke out. When it comes to adventure, this kid shows no fear.

So, in an effort to discover some new activities that Justin can do when he’s both seven and seventy that won’t kill his mother, we’re decided to give bowling a shot, and we’ll be implementing a timer to show him he’s not allowed to leave after just two frames. I’m eager to see how this event will go, given that we’ve attempted this type of field trip once before when he was five. That day I spent the better part of his classmate’s birthday party chasing him around from pinball machine to pinball machine, all in a desperate attempt to keep him there long enough to sing happy birthday to his friend and eat some cake.

Hell, I had it on good authority it was chocolate with REAL buttercream frosting. Hyperactivity be damned, this girl was going to have her cake AND it eat too.

We’re trying the bowling lanes mid-week, and I just have to say that I’m so appreciative that someone else will be there with me to do the literal heavy lifting, as I’m certain Justin will find this activity as entertaining as the teeth cleaning where mommy forgot his favorite videos (yes, that has actually happened). I’ll let you all know how it goes, wish us well.

And I promise, no matter what happens, no jokes about striking out.