Saturday, April 30, 2011

Today was better

We started the day off with a very early, "Mom, can I have cereal?" It wasn't even 8:00 A.M. yet and Puppy was dressed and ready to start his day. Me? I was ready for at least 2 more hours of sleep. But like most mothers know, you can't leave your child unsupervised for too long. So although I am still in bed, I am listening to every move Puppy makes. He gets a bowl, puts it on the counter, pours the cereal with several bits falling to the floor, pours the milk with a soft "oh, oh, an's okay," and then he walks it over to the table to eat.

Puppy made several visits to my bedside before I gave in to his pleas to let him go outdoors. So that meant I had to get out of bed. I fixed myself breakfast and we spent some time together. We flipped channels and then I asked Puppy if he would like to set up the pool today. We were expecting another over 100 degrees temperature. He got excited and quickly asked if his cousins could be invited. I made a few texts and then jumped in the shower--we had to get ready for company.

We made a quick trip to the grocery store to grab some hot dogs and the fixings, and punch. We set up the 9' x 4' inflatable swimming pool and put the water hose in it to get it started. Puppy was so excited he couldn't wait for his cousins to arrive. The pressure was too strong that he asked permission to get in the pool alone. He jumped right in and was about 30 minutes too early before guests were scheduled to join him. But Puppy is a big boy and enjoyed being able to stretch in the pool during his time alone.

His cousins arrived and I was pleased to hear so much laughter between them being had. I fixed their hot dogs with some chips and punch. They were ready to jump right back in to the water as quickly as they were done eating. Then we had a late arrival. My sister, Monica brought her son, Anthony to join the splash party. They were all having so much fun. Puppy asked to get out first since he was already feeling tired from spending almost 3 hours in the water. And then they followed one at a time as the shower became available.

It was a pretty good day for Puppy after the wallet incident the day before, and I was trying so hard to redirect him away from it. Spending time in the pool put stress on him because he was aware of the fact that the wallet was not on his person. But today was better, so much better.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Introducing Change

In my last post I wrote about Puppy being sorry for his actions. And I also wrote about how I had my work cut out for me. Well, today I introduced some change.

One of my older brothers was admitted into the hospital this afternoon. He drove himself to the ER in the morning because he feared another stroke was progressing and naturally wanted to avoid the worst.

After work and after picking up Puppy, we went to visit my brother at the hospital. My sister Margie was also there, having spent the entire day with him through the process of getting admitted and settled into his room. Well, Puppy has this habit of feeling uncomfortable around Margie because he wants her undivided attention. However, he has already been coached to leave her alone. It's been intense at times, but he's getting better.

Anyway...Puppy was having a difficult time being around her and started to show the beginnings of an anxiety attack coming on. He was upset that he was losing control and blurted out a curse word in the middle of something he said, but only I noticed. He looked at me and quickly apologized. Not too much time afterward, we left. All the way to the truck he was telling me how he didn't mean to say the bad word, he was just copying so-and-so. I told him to calm down and we would discuss it in the truck.

I had less than 5 minutes to quickly think of something. And I did. Once we were buckled in, I told him I was disappointed in his behavior and that because he did curse on purpose, I was going to take his wallet for the duration of the ride home. If he did not calm down and think about what he did, I would keep it. But if he complied, he would get the wallet back when we reached home. I was afraid of the reaction I was going to get from him. I had not followed through with taking his wallet lately.

He was so quiet the entire time, sitting with his hands crossed on his lap and just staring at me the whole ride home. I parked in the driveway and turned the engine off. He looked at me with the biggest brown eyes and asked, "How did I behave, mom?" I told him he did very well, but I also asked him to think about what he did. And most importantly explained to him how easily I can ask for his wallet and keep it if he is having unwanted behaviors.

Gosh, I hope he understood. But I realized, too--it was only one time, the first time that I have taken his wallet away from him in such a long, long time. I'm just so glad that we have this incident to fall back on as a lesson. One that was learned, or to be learned, maybe.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Sorry

Is it possible to get too tired of hearing, "I'm sorry"? I know this sounds badly, but this all goes back to Puppy's fear of having his wallet taken away from him for unwanted behavior. So, as quickly as he does or says anything that he thinks was wrong or in poor choice, he starts with "I'm sorry", "I didn't know it was wrong."

I'm so glad he is learning to identify the differences in his behaviors, but I feel that his fears become overwhelming for him, and I find he reacts the only way he knows how. Is it my fault? I'm sure I contributed to this overused reply from Puppy. As a parent, I want order and peace. I believe now, that I may be accepting his apologies too quickly to keep my own sanity and avoid a meltdown. I don't know for sure, but I can assume it would escalate into a meltdown if I take his wallet.

So we continue, he apologizes, I accept, he keeps wallet and I have peace in our home. Seems pretty simple. I didn't start writing this post with this thought in mind. Reading to myself out loud led me to realize the truth of it. Hmm, now I have some work ahead of me to change this habit...slowly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You're safe now

I am so proud of Puppy. He did something yesterday that we had only talked about, but hadn’t needed to act on.

After work I picked up Puppy from daycare as usual. He opened his backpack to show me a note from his teacher. No classes on Thursday and Friday, it’s the Easter weekend. Today (Wednesday, April 20) they are going to have a relax day in class. So her note read that the students are allowed to bring chips, candies, and cascarones to school for an afternoon party. Sounded like fun and now we had a short list of items to buy.

We had just been to Walmart the night before, so since Target is just across the street from it, I decided we could go there instead. So Puppy and I grabbed our cart and started walking up and down the aisles of Target. It wasn’t too busy and a pleasant walk, still for my tired feet. Puppy asked to go check out the toys. I was thinking he might be looking for an Easter item, and yet, I should have known better that he really meant video games like Xbox, play station, etc., even though we don’t have those components at home. Puppy has a DS Lite and so he knew precisely what to look for. We carefully flipped back and forth between another SpongeBob game or the new Megamind game. Actually, it was more like me convincing him he already had a couple of SpongeBob’s and it was time for a change. We got the clerk’s attention and Puppy had his new game in hand. We went back to walking and shopping.

As we continued, the dreaded moment comes up…he needs to use the restroom. I asked an employee nearby to refresh my memory and she gave us the location to the restrooms. He said he could go alone and would find me when he was done. So we went our separate ways like we have many times before. Great, more time for me to shop!

Did I forget to mention that we hadn’t been to Target in months? Take a moment. Sit back in your seats. Relax. You can do that. I, on the other hand, was summoned by the very loud overhead speakers to go to the service center at the front of the store. The thoughts that run through a mother’s mind can be devastating. Of course, my first honest thought was that Puppy detoured into the men’s section and was looking at wallets and may have innocently tried to put a wallet in his pocket to try it out for size…and was caught by security. I know, it’s a terrible thought, really bad, but the thought happened. Then thought number two: he fell down and is hurt. And I think there was a third thought somewhere, something to do with the restroom, but I forgot it already.

Anyway, I finally reach the service center, and there is Puppy with a big grin but with worried sad eyes. He had gotten lost and couldn’t find me. My heart sank, and I went over to hug him. I gave him my best “you’re safe now” hug and kiss. He tells me he didn’t know where to look so he showed the man his wallet that has my old driver’s license in it. He even recited my cell phone number to me, but said the guy wouldn’t call me. I was rather surprised to see him calm and relaxed. Well, I must be a pretty good hugger because he seemed to be over it within a matter of minutes and was ready to pick out his chips and candies. We finished our shopping and headed home with no mention of the incident.

Life is good. Our experience could have ended in with a very negative result. I am very thankful that it was a happy ending.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mom, did you kiss me good night?

Everything went smoothly tonight. Whew. It was a routine kinda night. We got home, changed our clothes, and I started on supper. I let him unwind a bit by going outdoors to water the grass (for like a whole 5 minutes). He came back in and I ignored his mesmerized attention to his wallet as he sat alone on the couch. He was quiet and self entertained, so I let him be.

Once the food was ready, we sat down together to eat our homemade hamburgers. Afterward, we went over the list of things he still needed to do: homework and shower before bedtime. Sure they are only two things on his list, but anything more than one requires listing them so he is fully aware of completing each task. So he sits at the table again and begins his homework in silence and ever so slowly. He traces the letters and patiently writes out each of the spelling words. Puppy even called me over to see how well he was doing, what a great job! Next thing we knew he was done. To show my appreciation for his good work, I allowed him to check if the neighbors were home and if so, he could ask permission to visit for a short while. They were, and he did.

On his return from the neighbors he was ready to jump in the shower and get ready for bed, and again--it all went so smoothly. He was out in no time and then the question was asked. "What are you going to tell teacher in the notebook?" So we went over all the things he had done tonight and he was satisfied with the fact that all of his actions were good behaviors.

So Puppy goes to his room and begins to collect his favorite toys for bedtime. I am trying to teach him to fix his own blankets so he did his best to place his blankets over each other and off the floor. Puppy uses three twin comforters, which I think give him a feeling equivalent to a weighted blanket. Ah, he's finally in bed and he calls me in to tuck him in. I do and we talk about tomorrow's morning routine and I give him a hug. Not even two minutes go by when I hear him call, "Mom, did you kiss me good night?" I probably did because I don't like to miss an opportunity to get a kiss on his cheeks. But I went right back into his room and smothered his face with many kisses and wished him sweet dreams, then looked at the big grin with dimples. And that was the ending to our beautifully smooth day.

No complaining tonight

Well, it’s been a couple of days since my last posting. And Puppy did much better with homework last night, and I wanted to cry as I watched him sitting at the dinner table, but I held back my tears.

I had written how Puppy had an anxiety attack the other night because he was stressing over what it is I was going to write to his teacher in our communication notebook. He had been disrespectful and was refusing to do his homework, and this was not good behavior.

Well, I had already texted his teacher as it was happening, so she talked to him and reminded him of the basic rules for behavior. Then she wrote to me that she had taken him aside and discussed with him the behaviors during his study time, and said he shouldn’t complain about doing homework. Although this was necessary for Puppy to understand that we do communicate with each other (Mom and Teacher), it seemed to work in both a good and a bad way.

We went straight home after picking him up from daycare. He asked if he could visit next door, but the neighbors weren’t home. So we changed our clothes and without any trouble asked me for his print-outs to get started on his homework. I gave them to him and left him alone as I started supper.

Now comes the tough part. He called out to me in the saddest voice…”look mom, I’m not complaining.” And then said that I needed to tell his teacher he was not complaining. He had understood what his teacher had told him and followed through. The lump in my throat came when I looked at him sitting there, carefully tracing his words and repeating the same thing…”look mom, I’m not complaining.” I went over to praise him for a good job and he wouldn’t look up at me, instead he said, “I’m sorry I was complaining the other day. I’m not gonna do it again, mom.”

When he finished his work, we sat down to supper. He was quiet mostly, few words were spoken, but a few smiles came from his face, with dimples (an inside joke between us). As we finished up, he then asked if I was going to write that he did “good”. We went to watch TV for a while and he still asked what I was going to write. So I went to the table and opened the notebook. I read out loud as I wrote how well he did his homework…without complaining.

I think Puppy had a good night’s rest that day. I hope I removed some stress off him if even for one night.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It was only one hour

Yesterday was a stressful evening. Funny how I look at that sentence today…and now I feel so selfish.

What made it stressful? My son was having anxiety attacks. His own stress must have been magnified a thousand times greater than mine, and I just wanted him to calm down and let it go. I wanted peace and quiet. That was selfish of me.

Puppy was doing well on the way home after picking him up from daycare. He mentioned to me that he had already done his homework. This consists of studying ten spelling words and reading some six paragraphs of a story. As a test, I asked him to repeat just one of the spelling words from this week’s new list. He couldn’t and so I told him we would go over the words one more time at home.

Bam! I heard, “No, I don’t want to, I did them in daycare!” And then it hit him. Yelling at mom was not good behavior. Oh, ooh. And wham! He started…”I’m sorry, don’t tell teacher“. “Teacher is going to take away my wallet!” “No, no, it’s my wallet, she can’t take it!” I heard this all the way home.

But it didn’t end when we arrived home. I told him I would change out of my work clothes and then we’d get started on his homework. He decided to follow me upstairs and again, yelled a nice big, “NO!” I reminded him that he should not raise his voice to mom, and directed him to go rest for a while in his room while I got changed. Not even 10 minutes passed when he was in my room asking for forgiveness. I accepted and after a small talk about what had happened earlier; he willingly headed downstairs to start working on spelling words.

Normally, this would continue into a quieter evening of homework, supper, television, talking, laughing, and then bedtime after his shower. But needless to say, we are not like other "normal" families.

As Puppy was beginning his homework he began to ask repeatedly, "Am I behaving?" "What are you going to write in the notebook?" "I'm being so good, mom?" "Don't tell teacher I yelled." "It's my wallet, no, no, no one takes it!" And as easily as those statements were spoken, his tears started to fall, his temperature was rising, his voice was stronger, and he was in full anxiety mode. Puppy was in overload and stressing over the notes I was going to write in the communication notebook to his teacher about our evening.

With a little help and reassurance from his teacher via texting, Puppy began to cool down and he was reacting to the praises on his homework and forgetting about why he was upset in the first place. At least so I thought. Once his work was done he did ask if I was going to tell his teacher he had bad behavior at home and apologized many times for having a difficult time.

My son was apologizing. He's come so far. He realized what he had done and identified it as unwanted behavior and apologized for it. He was specific to the yelling at mom, the crying and talking back. I'm remembering now, and I do remember that I also apologized to him for upsetting him. I must have, it was only us two. I'm guilty of forgetting how easy it is for Puppy to take my words literally and it can bring on thoughts and memories that cause him to react beyond his control.

This happened last night between the hour of 6:30 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. It was only one hour of our day; but it felt like four. This is only a small example of living with autism.