July 14, 2013


Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , at 3:46 pm by autismmommytherapist

Justin Turns Ten 044         
It’s been two weeks of glorious firsts chez McCafferty, and I just have to share.

I’d love to tell you I have photos to commemorate each of these important moments, but I don’t. In part, it’s because I wasn’t present for two of them. This lack of photography is also due to a desire to simply live in the moment (and not drench my camera).

I can tell you these events couldn’t have come at a better time.

The last few months with Justin have been very challenging. Not the soul-sucking challenging of when he acts aggressively with us, although there have been those moments sporadically as well. No, we’ve been witness to the cyclical resurgence of Justin’s OCD, which rears its unwelcome head every spring, and lingers into summer.

In case you’re wondering (and I’m sure you are) these OCD moments are different than his more common perseverative tendencies which harm no one, and I’ve come to believe in fact they serve as a calming function for my boy. His desire to replay the same scene from Despicable Me on his DVD player a thousand times is merely a harmless endeavor. His actions when enmeshed in the throes of OCD however, are not. Justin is very agitated when engaged in them. They serve no function. He suffers.

We are extremely fortunate in that his school has a wonderful BCBA who makes house calls (I consider his school to be the “Disneyworld” of autism), and with her three decades of experience I’m certain she’ll be able to at least quell, if not eradicate, the activities which of late are so troubling to my son. Help is on the way, just as Justin’s two-week hiatus from school is terminated and he returns to his normal schedule, which calms him as well.

But today’s post isn’t about the yin. It’s about the yang.

During this challenging hiatus there were moments of joy, of firsts, of unprecedented accomplishment which superseded the dark times. I was able to recognize and revel in them which is a first for me as well, as I tend to wrap myself up in Justin’s suffering when it occurs, which is neither healthy for me, nor for him.

During these last two weeks I’ve had the joy of hearing my youngest son tell me he willingly rode a pony at camp, the child who’s still afraid of most dogs and has declared at Justin’s horse back riding lessons that “he will never do that”. I’ve had the thrill of watching my eldest son master his fear of water slides (while his parents ran frantically above and below so as not to lose him), and choose of his own volition to return for yet another run.

My mom has regaled me with Zach’s excellent behavior on his first ever plane ride (plus his trip to the copilot’s seat which left me envious). Last, and especially not least, I’ve had the gift of hearing my son repeat “I love you” to me, unprompted, in response to my bestowing our staple line upon him.

It’s taken me a long time to get to this place, one in which I can staunch the sad aspects of autism and simultaneously soak in the joys of my children’s accomplishments. I’m in a place of firsts too, and it finally feels right.

Glorious moments; glorious firsts. Here’s hoping there are a great deal more to come.

September 26, 2011

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:29 am by autismmommytherapist

SNAP!!!!  The cracking sound of Justin’s tray being disengaged from its seat stops me in mid-swig from my Coke 90, and I quickly abandon my caffeine fix to rush back to the kitchen table. I look down at his plate and take in the completely disregarded toast and bacon pieces I’d hope would constitute breakfast, and insist that he sit down once again and try to eat something. Unfortunately, me and my boy have been at the “breakfast wars” going on ten straight days now, and I’m running out of ideas.

Over the past week I’ve attempted pancakes (the smell of the first burned batch lingered for days), and French toast (met with such disdain it was as if I’d poisoned it). I would have happily made the supreme sacrifice to actually fly to France and procure croissants for him if he’d just eat SOMETHING (I know, I’m that kind of mom), but since that option’s out, the best I’ve been able to do lately is get a piece of bacon into him. I offer him a strip of cholesterol in the hopes he’ll take it, and instead am met with a forceful shove of the hand, followed by my son standing up and in no uncertain terms disposing of his plate. He’s eight now, and only a head shorter than me.  Force-feeding him is no longer a reality, so I let him go.

So much for breakfast being the most important meal of the day.

There was a time five years ago when we actually had to force-feed him, which out of all the distressing issues that arise with some types of autism (and there are many), this ranks up there as one of the worst. Justin’s appetite had decreased a bit prior to me and my husband taking a vacation, but our boy has always had a rather ambivalent attitude toward food, and we didn’t think anything of it. We left for five days, and by the time we returned home he had stopped consuming absolutely everything. In only a week’s time he had begun to take on that skeletal, “starvationesque” appearance, and my mom was fairly frantic.

We all figured once his parents returned and routine was restored, Justin would resume eating. He didn’t. He in fact did not even permit a carb to pass his lips until we’d hired an eating consultant to teach us some behavioral tricks, techniques that in the end amount to fancy force-feeding. It took two days, but eventually he ceased trying to attain his perfect modeling weight, and to our delight, even consumed a vegetable.

It never happened again, but I have it on video.

I admit, I am really frustrated with him right now. This is mostly because I know that like his mother, unless he consumes something edible every few hours he’ll be in a bear of a mood, and I don’t like to send him off to school this way. He was up at 5:30 this morning so we have some time to kill, and as he plays the same scene from Despicable Me over and over, I search relentlessly through the fridge and pantry to come up with an alternative. Nothing jumps out at me (this kid even rejected Pop-tarts, which made my husband wonder if he was really his), until my eyes light upon an egg carton, one I’m justifiably afraid might have been there since the last presidential administration.

Thankfully, it turns out to be democratic dairy.

I know my chances of getting him to eat an egg (it’s a textural thing) are about as great as having a child on the spectrum, but since we all know how that turned out chez McCafferty, I figure it’s worth a try. I recall somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain that he’s become a fan of one of the Tastefully Simple spices I use when I pretend to cook, and I decide it couldn’t hurt to try to bribe him with Garlic-Garlic. I whip up two cylindrical orbs, lead a confused boy back to his seat, and present him with a new meal, fork in tow.

Damned if he doesn’t eat every crumb, with the added bonus of independently employing a utensil.

I’m not sure which is more shocking- that he’s actually eating breakfast, using the same fork he’s rejected for six years, or wolfing down a meal his mother herself concocted. At this moment, I admit, I really don’t care. Justin finishes quickly, gives me a smile and quick kiss so full of garlic I know the vampires will stay away, and happily escorts his empty plate back to the sink. I reward him with the hugs, kisses and praise I thank the entire universe that he’s always craved, and quickly start administering the twelve thousand supplements we have him take first thing in the morning.

I savor this victory, as for years around here that word was an elusive guest.

I also remind myself that I have to keep trying new things with him, even if every instinct in my body says the foreign intrusion will be rejected. Over the past few months I’ve seen him spontaneously request toys on his iPad, respond to a game of “chase” with Zachary, and once (albeit mistakenly) consume a piece of fruit and keep it down. Granted, these are all small accomplishments, perhaps not even recognized (except for the fruit consumption) in most typical homes. But here, these milestones are huge, and I want to make certain to notice, and to appreciate, every single one.

And as I catalogue yet one more battle won in the war for a happy, safe, and productive boy, I feel my stomach rumble, head toward the fridge, and remind myself that my pre-dawn Garlic-Garlic idea was pretty appetizing after all.