Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘anxiety

In Her Own Time

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We have another milestone, friends. Pudding is learning to tell the time. Pudding had no interest in learning how to tell time for…well, for some considerable time. We’d tried using her special interests, visual timers, crafting our own clocks, workbooks and ordinary telling time books, toys, apps, and any possible thing I could think of.

But it wasn’t her focus. I was looking at seconds, minutes, and hours, and Pudding was more fascinated by days and months. While I was busy in the details, Pudding once again took me by surprise and approached time from another angle.

Last June we met with a new doctor. Pudding asked him his birthday (and will now always remember it), and then she let him know what day it fell on. And then surprised us by knowing every date we asked her. She appears to have an exceptionally accurate mental calendar (and seems equally frustrated that the rest of us don’t!).

So now, days and months not only had meaning, but were meaningful to her. We add our activities to the calendar as much as we can.

But language, as always, was still confusing. As we cuddled in bed at the end of the day, Pudding would ask, “What are we going to do today?”

So’d answer that we would do nothing more today but go to sleep. And tell her what to expect for tomorrow, as much as we ever can.

One day last month, Pudding rose in her early-bird fashion, and reminded us that she was going to a party. Ah yes, I told her, but not yet, not for a long time. Later. At 3 O’Clock. 

And for some reason- that may or may not have to do with delicious birthday cake- this time, she wanted to know more. I’d show her my clock and tell her when the little hand was counting down the hours…8,9,10,11,12,1, then, 2, then time to go.

We found a Hello Kitty watch that happened to have hands with different colours. She wanted to wear it, and would answer when I randomly asked her the time.

This week, Pudding was finding school tougher than usual.  On Monday I collected her earlier, but after that, I asked her aide to use this new tool of time to help her get through the day. I’d remind her that I’d be there at 1, and she could see on her watch how close that would be. Her anxiety dropped away, and she could once again focus on her schoolwork. Not with ease, but with practice.

This incredibly useful tool that gives her more control to navigate her day independently. She doesn’t have the precision yet with telling time that she does with knowing dates, but I know we’ll get there soon. As useful as it is, this isn’t a milestone that could be hurried along the way. But like all the others, we’re getting there in her own time, in her own way. And not a second, minute, or hour before we need to.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

February 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm

First Grade

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First Grade

 

First day of First Grade, complete with social story in her hand.  First day for Pudding, at least- the rest of her classmates started last Wednesday, but we were still quarantined after the operation.  Though I’m anxious to know how her day went, I know she is in good hands.  Her new teacher emailed me to say she’d not only read my last post, she’d pinned it to her wall.

“We are all different and we all learn differently.”

Amen to that.  I’m glad Pudding is back where she belongs.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Worried

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I’m not worried.

Pudding is coming up to the last month of Kindergarten.  She has been supported, praised, held and loved.  And now it is time for her to move up to first grade. 

I’m not worried.

She has made friends, in her own way, and those kids have accepted her and liked her.  Perhaps some will stay in the same class with her.  Maybe she’ll make new friends.  I’m not worried.

Her current teacher is arranging for us to meet the next one.  She will prepare social stories and prep Pudding , and maybe even the new teacher, as best she can.  I wonder if she is worried.  I’m not.

Just as we’re looking at the next step with Pudding, our eyes are also a little further on the horizon.  It isn’t just next year we have to plan for, in the same school, but our next move.  Our next country.  Maybe even a whole new continent. 

And still, I’m not worried.

Because I know she can do it.  I’ve seen her, time and time again rise up to new challenges, and develop resilience, confidence, and the skills she needs to succeed.  I know now, I know, that with time, supports, and preparation, she is equal to anything.

I think I knew it even before we moved to Johannesburg- this was just testing our hypothesis.  Being prepared to run other experiments if we didn’t succeed the first time.  Knowing that there is always another way…we just had to find the best way, for her.  And we did.

And we will again.

I’m not worried. 

I’m grateful.

I’m experienced.

I’m prepared.

I’m ready.  Just like my girl.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Gestures

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We were traveling in the car to a village called Clarens for the weekend.  The kids’ grandparents have been visiting, and Spectrummy Daddy thought his parents would like to go to this artists’ haven in a valley in the Free State surrounded by mountains.  I agreed, because I thought is sounded like heaven for all of us.  It was.

But we were late setting off.  I had a work event that day which included Spectrummy Daddy getting hit in the face with a whipped cream pie (I have a weird job).  The event had run late, and then with picking up the kids and getting stuff ready for a weekend away…later still.

We finally set off and hit all the rush hour traffic.  I was getting panicky, because much as Johannesburg has street lights and paved roads, that wasn’t going to be the case where we were headed, and this just isn’t a safe country to be driving at night.  Especially with all the men-folk in a different car with the GPS.

Actually, we did have Cubby with us in the beginning, though I’m not sure he counts as a man yet.  He wanted to be in the girls’ car at least.  As we crawled along in the traffic, I noticed Pudding was the wrong kind of quiet.  I looked back and her face confirmed what evidence supported a few seconds later: she was car sick.

Pudding has been car sick a few times before, but this was bad, and it was already getting dark.  We found a small shopping center off the motorway, cleaned up as best we could, changed clothing, and allowed Cubby to switch back to the boys’ car, which had become much more appealing by virtue of being vomit-free.

Traffic was even worse as we got back onto the motorway.  We inched along, and with cars cutting in and out, were positioned further away from Spectrummy Daddy and the rest of the gang in the boys’ car.  I was trying my hardest to keep their car in sight.  I knew how vulnerable we were without a GPS, especially as it got darker and harder to navigate.

I was more concerned with Pudding getting sick again, and kept checking my mirror to see that she was still okay.  I barely had time to react as a white car swept in from the side, almost hitting mine in his attempt to enter the motorway.

I was furious.  Already upset from the turn our trip was taking, this car had almost caused us an accident before we’d even left the city limits.  But feeling vulnerable already, I tried to keep the road rage in check, I brought the car to a halt so it could enter in front of me without hitting.  I didn’t need to lose what was left of my cool. 

But the man in the white car had turned back to me and was gesticulating, but I didn’t understand what he was saying.  He is saying words too, but I can’t hear them, and the movement of his lips means nothing to me.  I doubt he is speaking English.  

Then he started clapping at me…but slowly.  The hairs on the back of my neck were raised.  He is starting something!  We’re stuck in this traffic, and this guy is trying (and succeeding) to intimidate me!

Or is he?

I can’t understand his gestures AT ALL.  Is he being apologetic?  Does he feel bad that he almost crashed into us and is saying so, but there is a cultural divide?  Is it possible that the slow clap could not be sarcastic?  And a woman is in the passenger seat, maybe I’m getting this wrong.

So I don’t react at all.  I don’t smile.  Or nod.  I don’t shake my head.  I keep my eyes focused ahead as though I’m oblivious.  The traffic is bumper to bumper and not much safe space to manouever myself anywhere, but if he stops, if he is going to get out of the car to hurt us, I’ll pull off onto the hard shoulder and speed my way around.  I’m mentally prepared for highjacking.

But for now, I just need to remain calm and alert.  I don’t need to overreact.

Yet this man seems desperate for my reaction.  He won’t stop with his gesturing and clapping.  Then his wife gets involved, doing the same thing.  And it is dark, and I’m not sure where I’m going, and my kid is sick, and I can’t see my husband’s car, and I’m scared and WILL YOU PEOPLE JUST STOP TRYING TO PROVOKE ME???!!!

And then the wife works it out.  I don’t understand!  So she tries a different gesture, and I breathe a sigh of relief as she chooses a thumbs-up sign, one that even a white western woman like me would be able to understand.  

And I do.  With a large smile I return the symbol, and the man and his wife do the same and we are all smiles and thumbs and nobody gets hurt.  We move on.  Slowly.

We crawl on into the traffic and a night that gets darker and darker.  I have hours of driving to reflect on the incident with the white car and my reaction to it.  I wonder if this is how it can be for Pudding- when you struggle to understand body language and gestures, when communication is both basic and foreign at the same time, does she feel this afraid?  Does she misinterpret smiles as threats?  If an olive branch looks like a loaded gun- how do you ever trust this world enough to make relationships in it?  I’m profoundly aware, once again, that if I faced Pudding’s challenges, I would be curled up in a corner and refusing any interaction.  She takes my breath away with the simplest of actions.

When we finally get there, it is Pudding’s turn top be anxious.  She won’t let me go out of sight in this unfamiliar place.  I try to calm her with my words, and then abruptly realize that she won’t be able to interpret them if she is already feeling vulnerable.

So we climb into bed together, and I offer her my hand.  She recognises the gesture, and moments later falls asleep, her hand still holding mine.  One sweet gesture at least, we both share and understand.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

April 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Comfort Zone

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In case you hadn’t dropped by lately, this blog has been pretty quiet this year. For someone who normally has an overabundance of words, I’ve hidden behind pictures.

The day after Christmas, I lost one of my closet friends. Even as I type know I feel a pain that I can’t find the words to describe. Rachael was truly one of the best people I have ever known. I’m mad that she was only in my life for twenty years, but I cherish every moment we shared.

She made a disability advocate of me years before parenting would take me that extra step. The world was a better place for having her in it, and I will miss her for the rest of my life. She would have been 35 tomorrow. In the midst of grieving, we had another sudden death in our Consulate community. I’m once again lost for words, and without my outlet, I find it hard to process all this loss. I can’t make sense of the senseless.

Without writing, I am out of my comfort zone. I turned to the next best thing- my camera, and tried to content myself with viewing life through a lens. But there is always more going on outside of the frame.

In the midst of all this, Pudding has truly found her place. She is reaping the rewards of all the support and effort that goes into teaching a different thinker. My girl is reading! Not just odd words and signs, brand names and adverts. She is reading books, and learning to write her own stories.

My biggest wish for her- that she can narrate her own life story- just took a huge leap forward. She will have words. They will delight her, they will inspire her. They will give her comfort when needed. And she will own them. She will own her story.

Last week I met with the Director of Teaching and Learning at Pudding’s school. She asked me if I would take part in the conference they are holding about inclusion in international schools.

I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I can’t do public speaking. I express myself best through the written word, I couldn’t even imagine talking in front of that many strangers. This is way out of my comfort zone.

But how can I not? How can I not persuade other international schools embarking on a journey of inclusion that they need to develop programs for children like mine? They need to open up their doors.

They need to get out of their comfort zone, and so do I. I sought permission from my boss, and he went one better- he offered me his support. He reminded me that what might seem like weaknesses can be our biggest strengths.

I don’t mind stepping out of my comfort zone, if it means helping to persude more schools to do the same thing.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Self Advocate

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At the doctors with Cubby, I mentioned to her what a wonderful self-advocate he is.  She had laughed, he had winced, and told her it was too loud.

“And I don’t like people touching me too!”

A statement of fact, but also a warning to the doctor who was about to do just that.  I marveled at him, this little wonder.  It comes so easily to him.

For Pudding, it has not been so easy.  She has always had her own mind, and known her own mind, and every day is a step closer to better expression.  Language is giving her the words and phrases to let us all know what she needs to be.  At her feedback session today, her OT told me how she now makes all her own choices for self-regulation.  I marvel at her.

This kind of advocacy, self-advocacy, is what I most want my children to do.  And yet…I’m only now learning to do it for myself.

This year has been a tough one, with a lot of changes and challenges.  I went to the doctor last week to talk about some of those challenges.  Back in March I wrote a post about a difficult time I was having.  I’d ended the post hopeful that things would get better.  And they did, but I haven’t.

I haven’t really got over the violent crime that happened in our front yard, and even though we were at a safe distance, I replay over and over what might have happened if they were playing there as normal.  The doctor informs me this is PTSD, which lately is manifesting in panic attacks.

On top of this, I’ve always had some social anxiety.  I’m the kind of person who is fine in small groups, but gets overwhelmed by crowds.  My new job puts more social demands on me than anything I’ve done before.  Whereas I’ve been able to avoid many social situations before, now I have to take responsibility for them, and at times it has been overwhelming.

I’ve carried on, because there is no reason why this should be so hard for me.   The doctor and I talked about some of the traits I have in common with the children.  But we also talked about how I give the kids support not because of their diagnosis, but because of their need.

It is time for me to start talking about what I need.  Like time alone to recharge after big events.  Such as knowing that I won’t be required to speak in front of an audience.  Perhaps being okay with the fact that I’m more comfortable writing than speaking.  Or just acknowledging that I can’t function normally if it is loud, or busy, or people are too close to me.  And then playing to my strengths, rather than my weaknesses.  You know, just like how I preach for my children.

It wasn’t easy for me, but I approached my boss.  He is awesome (and I’m not just saying that because he sometimes reads this!) and willing to accommodate my needs so that I can keep doing this job I love, but pushes me in new ways.

I think that with that support I can go from strength to strength, because I’ve seen just that with Pudding and Cubby.  Maybe one day I’ll learn to advocate like them too.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

November 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm

The Next Chapter

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After our first trip to Pudding’s new school, we looked through the book her teacher had made, and talked about them a little.  We were going to return on Monday, so this time I learned from my mistakes.  I was more specific about what would happen.  Instead of going to see the new school, teachers, playground and friends, I told her we would be going back to play on the playground at the new school with the new friends, and her teachers would be there too.

I don’t think it was just the choice of words, but at least she knew what was expected of her this time.  While everything is still new, it wasn’t so overwhelming this time.  Instead of parking in the huge car park and walking through the rest of the campus, I parked around the back, so we only had to walk around the elementary part of the school.

Pudding showed none of her reticence this time.  She skipped up to her teacher when she saw her, and took her hand to accompany her to meet some of the children in the classroom.  Cubby, recovering from illness, had come along too, so he and I busied ourselves on the playground.

It was some time before they returned.  Pudding had been playing.  She’d immediately taken up with another little girl in pink, and told her that they matched!  She ran out with a few other children and they all piled on to the playground.

I caught her teacher’s eye, who smiled back.  After the other children left, Pudding moved on to drawing, then we went for a look around her new classroom.  Pudding discovered another place to draw, and in no time at all had made herself quite at home.  I wasn’t sure she was going to want to leave.

She’s going to be fine,” said her teacher, and I honestly think that she will.

I think we all will.  She belongs here, with teachers who see a child’s strengths as well as weaknesses.  And who know that calming a parent goes a long way to easing anxiety in children.  We’ll be coming again next week for a final familiarization session.  This time we’re both looking forward to it, and the start of the next chapter in Pudding’s education.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 24, 2012 at 11:26 am