Thursday, 30 October 2014

First Practice Tantrum and the Start of Toileting

When I first heard of this technique, I thought it was stupid but I'm starting to see the potential.

We had our first practice tantrum with Nathan yesterday.  I explained the rules first:

1) If he feels like he needs to hit, he should grab his pants and count to five before taking a deep breath.
2) For practice, if he does hit, he won't get a time out.
3) If we get through the exercise and he doesn't hit, he earns $ 1.  (I showed him the coin)

Then we did a practice of counting to five and taking a deep breath while he was calm.  He did very well.

Then I had him close his eyes and imagine a situation that upset him.  I guided him, narrating the situation.  I based it on what happened earlier this week, when someone bumped him as he was coming in from recess.  I told him to imagine that he'd been having a lot of fun and was in the middle of something and the bell rang, then people were being loud and standing too close.  And then I gave him a light push to simulate the bumping.

He got very upset but instead of hitting, he started to cry.  I waited a little bit to see if he was going to lash out but then offered him a hug.  I held him until he calmed down and I explained I was proud of him.  Being upset and needing a hug are good ways to deal with being hurt.  Hitting is not.  So he earned his coin.

I don't want to do too many practice sessions in a week.  It's emotionally difficult.  But I'm trying to be more aware when he's upset and praise him for not using his hands or feet.

I expect this technique to take a long time to show results but we've already tried the social story route and immediate consequences route.  It's time to get more creative and since I can't collect antecedent-behavior-consequence data from the school to figure out a direct strategy, this kind of roleplaying is the best option I can think of.

On his brother's side, the therapists have begun recording benchmarks to see how long Alex is comfortable sitting on the toilet.  They're going to start by getting him comfortable on the toilet and then we'll move forward.  It's quite exciting (and worrying) to be at the start of the process.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Temper Tantrum At School

Nathan's been having periodic temper flare ups at school.  Yesterday he hit the French teacher with a small whiteboard because he didn't want to put it away.  I suspected something had happened because he came out late and was irritable and yelling.  However, I didn't get the email from the teacher until 8pm, far too late to enact any immediate consequences.

I'm trying to decide what I should do here.  He doesn't have these kinds of outbursts at home, so I can't do any kind of correction here.  I can only try to give him examples of things he should do (the social story approach) or have consequences, assuming I find out in time.

I'm wondering if we're dealing with a transition problem (he's not getting enough warning before the next activity) or if there's something else.  School is stressful for kids at the best of times, so maybe it's just too much by the end of the day.  Most of the incidents seem to be happening later in the day from what I'm hearing.

The teacher clearly doesn't have the time or energy to keep me up to date, so I can't depend on proactive methods from her. 

I'd like to sit down with the teacher and the floating aide and talk about ideas but I'd like to have some ideas before we sit down. 

I'm also wondering if this is something other parents are having to deal with and this is in the normal range of behaviour for seven year olds.  Certainly I've seen that Nathan's friends are still prone to the occasional tantrum.  It doesn't make it acceptable but it would make me feel better.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Gender Roles Conundrum

In September, my kids choose Hallowe'en costumes.  Nathan chose Emmett from the Lego movie.  Alex didn't seem too interested but said yes to a pirate costume.

On Friday, when his therapist asked what he would be for Hallowe'en, Alex told her "Queen Elsa".  I dismissed it, since Alex often will respond to such questions with whatever is in sight, rather than expressing a genuine opinion.

But then on the weekend, we were at a birthday party where one of his teachers was helping out.  And she asked me what Alex was going to be for Hallowe'en.  When I told her "pirate" she told me that he had been saying "Queen Elsa" for several weeks now.

This puts me in a logistical conundrum.  Frozen is still the hottest option out there for young girls and finding a costume would require plenty of legwork.  There's no time to make one myself.

The other challenge (and the elephant in the room) are traditional gender roles.  It is acceptable for a girl to dress as a boy under pretty much any circumstance.  It is moderately acceptable for a boy to dress as a girl for comedy purposes.  In select circumstances, there would be acceptance for a transgender preference.  But a boy dressing as a girl simply because he admires a female character is not one that society understands.

I don't believe this is anything more than Alex admiring Queen Elsa and wanting to partake in some of that feeling.  (Much as I would love to have a Captain Mal or StarLord costume for Comicon next year.) 

Alex doesn't understand or care about society's expectations.  He's not going to recognize disapproval.  Why should I deprive him of something he cares about because other people won't understand?  Particularly when that lack of understanding is not something which will impact him.

If this were Nathan, we would sit down and have a talk about how some people might say mean things or make fun.  I'd try to help him understand and prepare for the consequences  if he wanted to proceed.  But Alex isn't going to get it and frankly, there are already enough odd behaviours to make him the target of blanket disapproval so what's one more?

I don't know if I can pull this off.  But I think I owe it to him to try.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Trampoline Birthday Party Success

Alex was invited to a trampoline birthday party this weekend and it was an amazing success.

The party was at Xtreme Trampoline.  Most of the kids from Alex's autism class came and they had a great time. 

It was quiet.  Other than the kids at the party, there were only ten or twelve other kids there.  They bounced for an hour (although most lost steam at around 45 minutes).  They had some pizza and cake afterwards.

It was really great to see smiles and enthusiasm without tantrums or panics.  This is how childhood parties are supposed to be.  It was a welcome relief for all the parents.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Homework Challenge

We've been fighting a couple of minor bugs this week but it's played real havoc on Nathan's homework schedule (as did his hiding his homework book on Tuesday).

This weekend, he has to:
- finish his math homework (about 15 minutes)
- read a story for his reading homework (about 25 minutes, if it's familiar)
- answer two questions on the story he read (about 45 minutes each)
- collect materials for a diorama on birthdays (no idea, I'm guessing about an hour)

All due on Monday.

And to make life fun, I have limited time.  Alex has a birthday party on Saturday and, if I'm feeling better, there's a brunch with my girlfriends on Sunday.  Either way, Nathan has his art class on Sunday, too.

Usually I only have one or two tasks left for the weekend by the time we get to this point.  One task a day is very manageable for Nathan.  Two or three is going to be pushing it.  It feels like bad time management, but realistically, I can't predict being sick and forcing Nathan to work when he's sick is not productive.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Hiding Homework and Tears

On Tuesday, Nathan told me that his teacher had decided not to give them any homework for the week.  I was suspicious over this bit of good news.

Later that night, I got an email from the teacher telling me that Nathan refused to paste his math homework into his homework book and threw it across the room, refusing to take it home.  She told him that if he didn't take his book home, he would lose his first recess today.

Do regular kids have tantrums like this?  Or are they smart enough to simply ditch the homework book on the way home and protest to everyone that they have no idea what happened to it?

Right now, I feel exhausted and unable to come up with any kind of solution on this.  Nathan's bursts of irrational fear come without warning and don't last long enough to really work on.  A week ago, he was afraid the cats were going to eat him and screamed whenever he saw one.  That was one day and I only found out why he was screaming three days after the fact.  No real opportunity to deal with it.

It's like random things come together in his mind and link up, causing anxiety.  There's usually something he's anxious about but the constantly changing form defeats my grasp of basic psychology.  There has to be an underlying pattern or cause, but I can't see it.

I'll figure it out or I'll keep putting out fires.  But it can't be any fun for Nathan (although I suspect he does use it sometimes to get out of demands).

On the way home, (before I knew about the homework), I told Nathan that his babysitter was sick and would have to cancel.  He just burst into tears there on the sidewalk and wouldn't move for five minutes.  He cried like someone who'd been left at the altar by their childhood sweetheart.  He was absolutely inconsolable.

These strong emotions are worrying to me.  They're so overwhelming for him.  But I don't want to teach him to squish down his feelings and pretend he doesn't feel anything.  I also don't want him to be a target for bullies (and big reactions are a bully's delight).

More Post-Shooting Thoughts

First of all, everyone in my family is okay.  We all got home safe and sound.

But not everyone's family was so lucky.  My thoughts and wishes go out to the family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot as he stood guard over the tomb of the unknown soldier.

The guard at the tomb was put in a few years ago when drunken idiots decided to urinate on the tomb.  To prevent further disrespect, a guard was assigned around Remembrance Day and Hallowe'en. 

The papers are identifying the shooter as a radicalized Islamic convert.  Personally, I have a problem assigning a religious identification to people who misuse doctrine as an excuse to justify their own violent leanings.  So my thoughts also go out to all Muslims who are once again being tainted by the actions of a few people who completely missed the point of faith.

Yesterday afternoon I did a lot of thinking about what I should tell my children about the shootings.  People need to talk to make sense of what happened.  We need to frame things in the context of a story and to do that, we tell it to each other over and over again.  So they will likely overhear things in the next few days.  People will even likely talk to them directly.

Alex will not care or recognize what happened.  He has a great deal of difficulty understanding the concept of the past, especially when it comes to things which didn't happen to him directly.  However, he probably will pick up on other people's upset and so I'll be watching him for signs that he's become unsettled.

Nathan is too young to understand directly but since he may become aware, I've tried my best to explain in simple terms.  I've told him that the adults may be sad today because someone got hurt by a bad guy yesterday.  But the police stopped the bad guy and he's not going to hurt anyone else ever again.  I've told him that people may be saying all sorts of things today because they're sad or afraid.  Some of it may be true but some of it will probably be wrong.  So he should come and talk to me if someone says something which makes him feel afraid or upset.

We had my father over for dinner last night.  He works downtown at the Department of National Defence, so things were very stressful for him yesterday.  My mother is currently away and I think he needed to be with family for awhile.  To get back in touch with the everyday world again and put yesterday in its proper context of a horrible exception.

It will likely be weeks or months before we understand just who and what was involved in this awful plan.  There will be much speculation and pointing of fingers, attempts to use it for political and personal profit, fear will be generated and we're all going to be much more nervous around loud bangs for awhile.

But in the end, I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that this was not a typical experience, that the shooter is not representative of any of the groups he claimed and that someone lost their life in what should have been a post of honour. 

Tonight I will be lighting a candle to honour the sacrifice of Corporal Cirillo.  He should not have died and it is a tragedy.  But it would be a worse tragedy if it spurred more hatred and violence instead of bringing us all together in mutual mourning.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Shootings and Lockdown

About an hour ago, I learned that there had been a series of shootings downtown.  As a result, all schools throughout the city are in one version or another of a lockdown.  No student is allowed to leave the school.

I only learned about this because Alex was due to come home at lunchtime and when he didn't show up, I got concerned.  I thought there was supposed to be some kind of phone tree/robo dialler activated when schools got put on lockdown (especially since lockdowns are often followed by 'please come pick your kids up right now' calls).

I don't have a problem with the lockdown policy.  It's the safest way to keep everyone contained and out of the way while the police concentrate on making sure the bad guys are caught.  Life doesn't unfold as neatly as a cop drama and the fewer distractions (and potential targets) the better.  That's the intellectual and practical side of me.

On a gut level, about 500 000 years of maternal instinct are telling me to visually/tactilely confirm that my kids are safe and under my protection.  But if parents were allowed to come get their kids, there would be mass chaos and it would be a far too tempting target.  This is why humans have brains as well as instincts, so that we can make smart decisions instead of relying solely on our gut.

Alex is perfectly happy with the situation.  No therapy and he gets to play with his friends at school.  Fair deal.  I don't know how much Nathan knows, but of the two, he's more likely to be anxious.  I'll have to spend some time reassuring him that this is a grownup problem which he doesn't need to worry about.

Right now, my biggest worry (since I don't live downtown) is whether or not the lockdown will be resolved by the end of the school day and whether or not they will be able to provide transport for Alex or if I'll have to come and get him.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Chocolate and Lego Shortage

There are days when even the five minutes of news I listen to each day is too depressing.  Today's feature?  A hit and run on two soldiers, a house fire and expected shortages for both Lego and chocolate this Christmas.

Okay, granted, not having plastic blocks or sugary treats is not the worst thing which can happen.  It probably won't even be the worst thing which happens between now and Christmas.

Lego, I'm not horribly surprised.  The Lego movie caught manufacturers by surprise and sales spiked.  The fact that we now have a production-sales gap was predictable.  Annoying, but predictable.

Chocolate is apparently the latest casualty of the Ebola outbreak since a significant proportion of the world's cocoa crop is on the Ivory Coast of Africa and they've closed their borders to prevent Ebola from coming in from their neighbours.  Of course, that also means there are no migrant workers coming in to pick the crop.

It's sad.  It also means I have to hustle my butt out and pick up the boys' advent calendars before Hallowe'en, which is also sad and wrong.  They both want Lego calendars and I'm willing to bet so do a lot of other people.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Elevator Annoyance

Alex likes elevators.  We all know this.

But lately he's been  humming the tones from various elevators (and sadly, I can recognize which ones are which by the pitch).  At first, not such a big deal, but now he's doing it constantly.

The school sent home a note asking if we could discourage it as it is interfering with his work and with other students in the class.  I was already getting to the point where the constant hmmm-mmmm in various tones was driving me nuts.  (I'm the opposite of the boys, I can't tune out my aural feed no matter what.  So repetitive or unpleasant sounds will quickly frustrate me.)

The question is: how do we discourage it?  Especially since it's probably an unconscious vocal manifestation of what's going on in his head.  The only answer I can think of is to tell him "no elevator noises" for a particular activity and then remind him to be quiet.  I'm not sure how effective it will be as a strategy, but it's got a chance of breaking it if the noises have just become habit.

With a regular ten year old making an annoying repetitive sound, you could ask him to stop, you could explain when and where such noises are appropriate, you could offer a reward or punishment.  The strategies may not work but where one fails, there are other options.

When it comes to self-reinforcing behaviours like shredding, making the cats hiss or humming elevator tunes, the behaviour itself makes him feel good enough that it doesn't really matter what the external consquences or expectations are.  Breaking those behaviours is really tricky.  From the list, as you can guess, I haven't had a lot of success.

Here's hoping this one works.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Griding Through the Days

As much as I love Hallowe'en, I really don't like this time of year.  The weather is miserable and the sun vanishes far too quickly.

I find this is the time of year I get discouraged and frustrated and have more thoughts about how things are never going to improve.

I'm sure a lot of people are in the same situation.  Everyone I know is complaining about feeling tired and drained of energy right now.  I think it's good to share these kinds of feelings so that no one has to feel isolated and alone on top of fighting exhaustion and depression.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Cooperation At the Dentist

Alex and the dentist are usually open enemies (at least on Alex's side).  He may tolerate it for the sake of the elevator but he'll resist as much as he thinks he can get away with.  Initially, we had to put him under general anesthesia for his cleanings and then we moved up to a full body restraint board.

Yesterday, we strapped him into the restraints and he was actually cooperative.  He didn't fight to wriggle out of the restraints.  He opened his mouth for ten seconds at a time (a personal best).  He asked politely to get down rather than trying to throw himself off the exam chair.  (I had to tell him no but told him I was proud he asked.)

I don't think it's a coincidence that he's doing better and we've been doing the behavioural programming.  Hopefully we can keep it up.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Finding Time for Me

This fall has felt like a never-ending slew of tasks, work and managing Alex and Nathan.  I haven't even been able to get started on their Hallowe'en costumes as yet.  I'm trying to balance the editing deadline for my novel, back to school communications and organization, my regular workload and deal with vacation stuff, regular paperwork and a dozen other things.

I'm wiped out.

We won a single night Refresh stay at a local hotel and I think I'm going to go out of pocket for a second night.  I can't really afford it but at this point, I don't think I can afford not to.

Having an overnight at the hotel is nice.  For parents whose kids don't sleep, I'm sure it's a lifesaver.  But my kids sleep fairly well, though I do have to get up fairly frequently to change Alex after he's wet the bed.  For me, I don't need a night off, I need a day off.  Booking two nights is the only way to get that.

A day off without having to deal with tantrums, sulks, homework, time management, work or housework?  Now that's a vacation.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

New Direction from Behavioural Therapist

Since we came back from Disney, we've been having a hard time with Alex.  He's been much more aggressive than he was before we left.  It was expected (although we always hope this time will be different) since he almost always has a spate of difficult behaviour after something enjoyable.  For a walk, it might be an hour or so.  For a weekend, the rest of the week.  For a week away on vacation, often two to three weeks.

Our behaviour therapist pointed out that, from Alex's perspective, all the rules change during these activities.  Since he lives in a world where things are constantly changing for no reason, he doesn't connect special activities to special rules.  Instead, as he sees it, all the rules are up for renegotiation and aggression has always been a favoured tactic for him to renegotiate.

It's not a malicious thing.  For him, aggression is a tool just like communication, except far more reliable.  Without the empathy to understand that he is hurting others or the social understanding to realize how negatively this impacts his relationships, it must seem effective.

The therapist said we had to make sure we were absolutely 100% consistent to help him to understand that the old rules were still in place.  Any change, no matter how small, would only reinforce the idea that everything was up for renegotiation.

It's difficult and exhausting but I'm doing my best to be 100% consistent.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Citizen Article on "Overdiagnosed" Autism

I won't pretend to be unbiased in this case.  This article made me furious.

The article speaks to Enrico Gnaulati, author of "Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder".  This self-righteous crusader (who does not appear to have any experience working with children with autism, ADHD or bipolar disorder) claims that parents and doctors are just too anxious and pathologizing normal kids.

Well, Dr. Gnaulati, I call bullshit on your theory.

He claims that 30 % of children diagnosed with autism will no longer qualify for diagnosis in later life.  I couldn't find the North Carolina study he claims to cite (mainly because North Carolina is currently involved in hundreds of autism research studies).  The only time I've seen "recovery" numbers that high is when all the children involved were undergoing intensive early intervention.

I've been the parent wondering if my child's behaviour was typical and being dismissed as over-anxious.  Even after Alex was diagnosed, my family doctor (who had refused to refer us for testing) told us that he "didn't believe in autism as a diagnosis because North American parents are just too uptight."

Like the anti-vaxxer crusade, this is ideology masked as science which has the potential to harm a large number of families.  No parent wants to believe their child has autism.  A parent reading this might decide to wait and see if their child "grows out of it" rather than seeking help.  And if that child does have autism, then the best years to help them will be gone.

I assume if you're reading my blog, that I'm somewhat preaching to the choir, but please, encourage people to have proper professional evaluations rather than hoping it will go away if they ignore it.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Xray Results

Yesterday, we did our visit to CHEO for Alex's X-ray.  Due to traffic, it took us over an hour to get there (usually it's about half an hour) and then I had to spend another half hour arguing with the receptionist who insisted we couldn't do the X-ray in advance.  (Note, this wasn't the receptionist for the X-ray but rather the one in the dentist's office who needed to give me a slip of paper with the requisition on it.)

It really bothers me when people are clearly unfamiliar with a request or unwilling to do it but instead treat the request as if it is impossible and impertinent.  The waiting room wasn't packed, so she wasn't overwhelmed with trying to funnel people into the office.  I politely explained the situation and asked for the requisition only to get a faceful of attitude in return.

She insisted that Alex should do the X-ray right before his appointment next week.  I explained that he had severe autism and would not be able to tolerate doing both in one day.  Her response to that was basically: that's your problem and I shouldn't have to do anything about it.  (I've been on the other side of the desk and I hate to break it to her but that is literally your job, it's literally why they pay you.)

Luckily the technician who Alex works with happened to wander by and took over the situation.  We went over to X-ray (where I discovered I'd forgotten Alex's health card at home ... d'oh!) and after a ten minute wait, we were doing the test.

Alex did relatively well.  He vibrated a little so I suspect the results will be blurry but it will be sufficient to determine how many adult teeth buds are still in his gums, which was the point.  I got suited up and held his arms and talked to him to remind him to stay still.

He earned 10 minutes on the CHEO elevators as a reward and a bus token (5 and he gets a ride on OC Transpo).

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Day From Hell

I thought about a more polite title for today's post but anything less didn't really cover it.

My vague hope that a smooth weekend meant we were past the worst of the post-vacation reaction behaviour has been dashed.  Alex has been growing steadily more aggressive and less cooperative.  He's attacking me, Nathan and the cats on a regular basis. 

Most of yesterday was actually quite good but the parts at home more than made up for it.

Alex screamed and hit his way through most of his therapy session.  Then when Nathan came home, we had three back-to-back time-outs filled with screaming, bolting, headbanging, hitting and kicking.  I have a magazine taped to my wall to cover the large hole which Alex smashed in the drywall, which he then decided to enlarge by picking at it.  It lasted over an hour.

Dave and I had a doctor's appointment in the evening and when we got back, more kicking and screaming and headbanging for bedtime.

The behaviour only kicks in when he's being asked to do something.  If he's allowed to completely go his own way, then he's sunshine and light.  It's clear, he's acting out to avoid having to do what's been asked.  Maybe this is an extinction burst coupled with the post-vacation act out.  We've been relentless on following through with the demands, which is the only way to stop this behaviour.

But I am darn tired of having my family be assaulted repeatedly.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Call From Teacher

I got a call last night from Alex's teacher to let me know that today would be his Picture Day.  With Alex only going to school for half the day, she and I are still working out the logistics of his communication book.  (Usually she has forty minutes at the end of the school day to write out everyone's notes and put the paperwork in the comm-books, but Alex is long gone by then.)

We also talked about how long we anticipate the therapy program running.  My honest answer was at least until December and then money would likely determine how long we could actually keep it going.  She said she could see real benefits from the work the therapists are doing with Alex and thus there would be no objection on her end.  However, she is going to adjust the goals on his Individual Education Plan (IEP) to reflect the fact that he's only there a half day.

I am pleased with the progress so far and with the therapists beginning to tackle toilet training, I'm eager to see what they'll come up with.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Preparing For Panoramic Xray

Alex has an appointment with the dentist next week and they've asked us to try and do a panoramic x-ray before the appointment so that they can get an idea of how many adult teeth buds are still in his mouth (and thus let us know if some of the gaps currently in his mouth are from adult teeth which have been removed.)

The panoramic x-ray requires him to stand still for about 30 seconds while the machine buzzes around him.  We've been practicing having him stand still while I take a stool and buzz it around his head and we're frankly not having much success.  The most effective technique to have him lie or stand quietly is to have him sing but he can't be moving his mouth, so that option is out.

I'm honestly not giving us a great chance of success but we still have to try.  The only other option is to knock him out and then take the x-rays while he's unconscious.  We're likely going to have to do that soon anyway to get a thorough cleaning but the longer we can put it off, the better.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Tantrums and Fight Training

I studied karate before I ever got pregnant with Alex and I've been grateful for it, although not for the usual reasons one would assume.

The reason I'm grateful is because my sensei taught me restraint holds which would not injure the person I was holding but would allow me to prevent them from escaping and hurting me.

It hasn't always been perfect but it's been an invaluable tool when dealing with the boys' tantrums.  Neither of them has a good concept of empathy or hurting other people.  Alex sees violence as a useful tool to get what he wants (and once which is easier than communication for him) and Nathan has a hard time remembering his empathy once he's upset.

Over the weekend, Nathan had a huge tantrum.  He's been having a rough week since Alex has been home.  Alex has been attacking him on a fairly regular basis, trying to get out of doing various tasks such as eating his dinner and cleaning up his toys.  I think the pressure just built up and Nathan couldn't take any kind of disappointment anymore.

I had told Nathan that if he hit me or Alex or the cats or his father again, he would lose his Lego for the rest of the weekend.  (This is his prize toy and we'd already tried a few timeouts to give him time to recoup his temper.)  It wasn't two more minutes before Nathan hit me again. 

I got a big tub and carefully put all of Nathan's Lego creations inside it.  A few did end up breaking despite my care.  Nathan ran and hid while I was doing it.  When I brought him back to his room, he started screaming that he was going to throw away/destroy all his toys and books and then he'd be miserable forever.

It was a tough decision moment for me.  On the one hand, stuff is stuff and I'm trying not to be overly materialist or pack-rattish around the boys (I have great attachment to my stuff, probably because I moved frequently as a kid and therefore the things had greater stability than the houses or people.)  And sticking with that first hand, I don't want to encourage this self-punishment technique and give Nathan the idea that it's a tactic which works.  On the other hand, I know that if he destroys his things, in ten minutes he's going to be heartbroken.

I decided to treat this the way I'd treat a friend who was drunk and announcing she was going to booty-call a horrible ex.  Prevent action until the individual regains enough calm to have some shot at thinking straight.  Nathan was effectively drunk on his upset and science has shown that strong emotions do literally shut off the ability to predict and reason.

He had launched into full fists of fury mode, which meant I had to hold him and restrain him until he calmed down.  It took almost half an hour and was heartbreaking for both of us.  He screamed, he kicked, he punched, he even tried to bite a few times.  But eventually he wore out enough to calm down.  I stayed about another ten minutes to make sure he didn't regain his energy and start again but then I gave him his privacy to recover.

I know parents who walk around with black eyes and bruises from dealing with their autistic children.  Alex actually cracked my nose one time when I wasn't holding him properly.  I'm very grateful that I've got the knowledge to restrain them properly.

My karate teacher is still teaching at Prana Shanti Yoga on Armstrong Street on Thursdays at 7:30, if anyone else would be interested in learning his techniques.  You can call the yoga studio or simply show up for a drop in class.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

This Friday (Oct 10) on Animal Planet

The documentary Paws for Autism, which follows two children with autism as they receive their service dogs, is on at 11pm on Friday, October 10th on Animal Planet.

The film does a great job at showing what the therapy dogs can do for a child with autism.  It's what finally got Dave and I off the fence about applying for a dog.

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Homework Dilemma

Since Nathan is in Grade 2 this year, he's now getting regular homework.

According to the school board standards, he should be doing about 20 minutes of homework a night.  Looking at the work which has been assigned, that's probably a fairly accurate assessment of how long it should take.

However, it's taking us an hour and a half to two hours nightly to do a single page of work. 

Nathan dawdles, he delays.  He doesn't like the pencil so he sharpens a new one.  He wiggles around in the seat, pretending he's a cat.  He writes the letters backwards or makes them wiggly so that he can pretend they're having a dance party. 

And he throws a tantrum if I tell him to concentrate and do his work or make him erase a section and do it over so that it is legible.

This is a major challenge.  The amount of time it's eating up severely limits the other things I can do with him or Alex.  We haven't been able to do Nathan's feeling journal or practice reading.  If Alex gets aggressive, I'm splitting my attention between time out and homework and neither gets done properly.

I've decided that we'll have to do some homework every night, even if I have to make up assignments (although I don't think that will be a problem).  With luck and consistency, maybe the lure of delaying will pale beside the lure of getting to have his computer and play time.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Make A Wish vs Autism

On our Disney flight, there was a little boy and his mother from the Make-A-Wish foundation.  They were getting a great deal of support from the crew and passengers.

A little jealous part of myself couldn't help but compare our situation with theirs.  They are treated with compassion, their meet and assist was prompt and ready for them (whereas ours vanished into the bureaucracy). 

I felt bad for my reaction, after all, you don't get to make a wish unless your child is dying.  I'm sure the parents would give anything in order to get more time with their child. 

But it made me think about the difference between a terminal condition and a lifetime one.  Autism doesn't shorten anyone's lifespan but it certainly affects the quality of life for everyone involved.  And it seems like parents of children with autism have to fight for everything and justify their requirements a lot. 

A perfect example of this is the salary caps for many of the assistance programs.  No charity wants to be caught giving money to someone earning six figures, even if the burden of therapy bills mean the family is effectively living below the poverty line.  Make-A-Wish doesn't have a salary cap.  No one wants to be mean enough to tell a parent whose child is dying that they should pay for their own Disney vacation.  (And anyone who did should be studied as a cartoon supervillain.)

I could go on about whether or not it's worse to have to face years of watching your child suffer but know there will be an end or to watch your child suffer and know that this could be their entire life for the next eight decades.  But that distinction is meaningless: they both suck and no one should have to face either one alone.  But society is much more accepting of the first one.  The second is seen as the family's burden to bear.

I'm grateful that my sons have a chance at living a full life and yet it also terrifies me to know that my burden on hands-on parenting is likely to last for the remainder of my life.  The knowledge of that potential future is exhausting and saps the hope and energy needed to do the work today.

Hopefully as more people come to understand autism, there will be more compassion for the burden the families are facing. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Back to Dealing with Life

The post-vacation challenges hit us quickly on our return.  I'm swamped enough with work that I haven't been able to write in the afternoons.  Instead I'm still returning calls and emails in an effort to catch up.

Alex did fairly well on his first few days home but now we're dealing with a return of him being aggressive after he's told no.  We've had four incidents in the last 36 hours where I've told Alex he couldn't do something (or had to do something he didn't want to do) and he ran over and shoved Nathan.

We're sticking with the timeout procedure but at a time when I'm already stretched thin, it's a challenge to keep to the program.

We discovered Nathan had an aggressive incident at school on the Friday when we were due to come home.  But the teacher didn't tell me about it until Monday evening.  I'd asked her to let me know about such incidents so that we could enact an immediate penalty.  Putting it off several days greatly reduces the effectiveness. 

Once again, the trigger was putting a note in Nathan's agenda.  I'm going to have to think of something so that's not such an issue.

Aside from that, I'm also trying to deal with managing the laundry from our trip (and our regular mammoth loads), organizing the logistics for various appointments this month and deal with requests from our local Beaver troupe and my writing group.

I could definitely use an actual vacation right about now.