Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘attention

J is for Jealousy

with 18 comments

I’ve mentioned before that for all the ways they can be different, my kids have an interestingly typical relationship.  They occasionally play together, in their own way.  They certainly seek each other out.  There are fights.  There is blaming each other for things they’ve done wrong.  There is teaming up as co-conspirators to wreak havoc.  There is a surprising amount of what you might call “normal” sibling behaviour.  And amongst all that, is jealousy.

Both of my kids like a lot of attention, and each becomes jealous of the other, particularly if I’m the only one around.  It is hard to handle, this push and pull, particularly when their needs can make it hard to be around each other.  Often I feel that if I’m not letting one down, I’m letting them both down.

And that push and pull goes a good way to describing my own jealousy.  I don’t feel jealous very often.  I like my life and the choices that I’ve made.  But I’m only human.  Once in a while, a feeling of jealousy will overwhelm me.  Like when I took the kids to the park.

Our local playground is renovating, so we went to the park near where Cubby plays football (soccer) which has a playground next to a cafe/restaurant.  A couple of times, we girls have gone there while the boys were at their game.  Pudding loves flitting between the playground and my table.  I’m free to relax over a pot of tea while keeping an eye on her play.  We both have a good time.

With Cubby there too, sitting at the restaurant is out of the question.  The push and pull takes me from one direction to another.  There is no relaxing and observing with the two of them.  I sit on a bench, knowing it won’t be for long, but I’m feeling unwell and could use the break.  Pudding pushes off, wanting to explore and take her dolly for a walk.  Cubby pulls in to me.  When we first arrive he is overwhelmed at first by the other children running around and making noise.  I gently encourage him to adjust to his new surroundings, and away from the safety of my proximity.

Pudding wanders too far.  I want to pull her back into a closer orbit.  I push Cubby to follow me closer to Pudding, but he isn’t ready yet, and refuses to move.  I watch her closely.  We’re not far, but she keeps going in the wrong direction.  She hasn’t turned back yet, and I wonder if she remembers where we are.  I call to her, but she doesn’t hear, or doesn’t respond.  The other kids playing, the other adults sitting and chatting make too much noise.

She turns around in a circle, but she still doesn’t see me.  I wave my arms like an air traffic controller, but it is too bright, and there are too many others running around her field of vision.  Now she is scared, and I hear her calling me.  Her face is a picture of anxiety.  I pick up the protesting Cubby and run to her relief.  All is well again.  I abandon the bench, and draw both of them back to the playground, warning Pudding that she needs to keep looking for me.  She doesn’t stray again.

I want to rest.  I feel the first sting of jealousy as I look over at them.  Tables of mothers with their friends.  Worse, with their own mothers.  At that moment, I want nothing more in the world than to be sitting over tea with my mum.  I force myself to concentrate on the kids instead, so the emotion doesn’t take over.  Another child takes Pudding’s doll stroller without asking, and she lets her.  She just stands there, until I ask if she wants it back.  She does, and I coach her through asking the girl to return it.  And when the little brat refuses, I intervene myself, because her own parent who should be watching is at one of these tables, doing something other than paying attention to her child’s behaviour.

And the jealousy is throbbing now, because there is never a moment when I’m not paying attention to my kid’s behaviour.  This luxury of being able to ignore, to content yourself that your child will be fine is something all these mothers take for granted.  I can’t even sit on a bench when I feel sick.  I can’t even visit a doctor unless they’re in school.  I live on a different continent to all my relatives, and right at this moment I’m bitterly jealous of the carefree families relaxing in the sunshine.

I take the stroller and call Pudding and Cubby to join me on a climbing frame in the shape of a rocket.  My mood calms down as we play.  Cubby is driving us to the mall.  Pudding has her doll on her lap for the journey.  I’m pretending we can see planets and spaceships on our journey.  We have a few minutes of uninterrupted contentment.  Then we are disturbed.

A boy, probably eight or nine years old comes over to the rocket.  I get down so there is plenty of room for him to play as well, but hang close by.  He climbs up on top, over the area where my two are sitting.  Cubby moves away from the driver’s seat, and Pudding uses the space to lie down- she and Kelly doll are taking a nap.  A smile at the unexpected gift of pretend play.

The first time he does it, I think it was an accident.  He was trying to get down, and accidentally stood on her head as he looked for somewhere to place his feet.  That must have been it.  Even though there was plenty of other space around, he didn’t look before he started to climb down.  That had to be it.  She doesn’t react, though it must have hurt.  I look up at the boy, and he is looking down at Pudding.  But he isn’t climbing down.  And he raises his foot again, and stomps down harder on Pudding’s head.

This time I’m sure it is deliberate.  I’m too shocked to speak, and it is Cubby’s voice I hear telling me that the boy is kicking his sister.  He lifts his leg again, and before I know it, I’ve pulled myself up on the climbing frame, and we are face to face.  He freezes.  I don’t say anything, but the look on my face is enough.  He backs away and scampers off the rocket.  I go over to Pudding, still lying there, not even able to put her arms protectively around her head, but she is okay.

I’m not.  I’m not interested in the boy, but I’m poisoned with rage and I need to find this child’s parents.  He has already run out of sight.  I cast my eye over every table, but not one person is looking, or following in his direction.  Pudding wants to go home, so we do.

But even once we’re home, I can feel that jealousy like venom spreading through my body.  Because if my child attacks another, whether provoked or not, or under sensory assault, or just because they are plain mean; we have to answer it with more therapy.  With more hours spent helping our children learn to respond to the world in a socially appropriate way.  We don’t get to ignore it, and we don’t get to sit over a latte oblivious to the damage being done.  We can’t absolve ourselves of responsibility even for a moment.

There is an antidote, of course.  Those other parents don’t know what they’re missing out on, and they really are missing out on so much.  You can’t fully appreciate what you have when you’re not paying attention.  And not every parent of typically developing children is inattentive, not by a long shot.  But some are, and at times I’m just plain jealous of them, when perhaps it should be the other way round.

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can find the previous ones by clicking >here<.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Good and Ready

with 22 comments

For once, Pudding’s communication folder didn’t come home with her from school.  Instead of looking at the day’s notes, I was going to have to rely on whatever information she chose to volunteer.

I took her to the bathroom, and found a small scrape covered with a princess band-aid (plaster).   I asked her what had happened, and I got the same echolaic response she has said for 18 months, “I fell down on the playground with Zoey*.”

I sat down with her to ask about her day.  Usually she graces me with a couple of answers, and I piece together the rest from her teacher’s notes.  No such luck today. She ignored my every question, until I gave up.  I worried.

It has recently been suggested to us by Pudding’s speech therapist that we might need to consider medication to help her reach her full potential.  Not that we haven’t considered it before, but the suggestion coming from somebody else is a confirmation of our fears.  And of course, it isn’t as easy as deciding to medicate, or not.  Do we treat the anxiety, the sleep disturbances, or the attention problems and hyperactivity?  Do we accept that treating one area might lead to more problems in another?  And of course, Pudding is so very young, who knows what damage might be done on medicine that hasn’t been approved for use in a child her age.  There are side effects, and there are dosing issues.  It can takes months, even years, to get the levels right.  Her behaviors are manageable to us at home, but can make her unteachable.  International schools don’t have to abide by the laws protecting her here.  Her attention problems might be enough to keep her out of mainstream education.  Not that I feel that mainstreaming is necessarily the right option for her.  As you can see, one question leads to another, and it becomes a lot more complex.  Ultimately, there is no right or wrong, parents just do their best making difficult decisions, and hope that the passing of time proves them right.  The adage about every child on the spectrum being unique is true, which just adds to the confusion.  We would have no way of knowing what the consequences would be until we went ahead and tried medication.  Then, as with all therapies, have no idea if progress was a result of the prescription, another therapy, or just natural brain development.

We’d weighed up the pros and cons, and decided we weren’t ready for medication for Pudding.  We would keep trying other ways.  But what if she keeps pulling away from us?  I couldn’t help but worrying about the wisdom of going against the advice of a respected professional, particularly one who has seen many children with Pudding’s diagnosis, and has nothing to gain from the suggestion.

After taking a bath, she asked me to put her to bed.   Every other night for a couple of weeks she has requested Daddy, so I was pleased to be summoned.  We read a story, then she asked to cuddle in bed.

She asked me: “What did you do at school today?”

I took the bait, and repeated the question back to her.   Then she proceeded to tell me, with more detail than she ever had before, about every activity she had done.  You (sic) ride on the bus.  You say hi to Ms. S, and {lists all the other pupils and aides}.  I do circle time and centers.  I do dinosaur puzzle.  You (sic) play with dolls and trains with Joey.*  I do gym, you (sic) fall down, and get a boo-boo.  I turned the computer on, I played music on the computer, I turned the computer off.  For lunchtime I ate chili, and crackers, and a berry juicebox, and apple sauce, and raisins.  You (sic) played a game. If I asked her a question about it, she’d consider, then respond appropriately.  We had a 10 minute conversation!  She was a different child from the aloof one I’d tried to quiz earlier.

Once again, the lesson that it will be her way, or no way.  You’d think I’d have got that by now!  I’m okay with giving her more time, we have plenty of it.  We’ll wait until she is good and ready, perhaps then we will be too.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 11, 2011 at 7:20 am

No words necessary

with 5 comments

How Pudding says shh

I’ve been reading lots of articles and posts lately about labels, and the conflict that can arise from using the wrong one.  For instance: does a person have autism, or are they autistic, as the author of this blog prefers?  As a former carer and current spectrummy mummy, I’ve always preferred to use the ‘person-first’ approach, but in the case of autism, or even Autism, if you prefer, it doesn’t personally bother me.  It is certainly an interesting debate, and sometimes the words themselves are less important than the intent behind those using them, and the reaction of those receiving them.  I’ve even written posts myself about my reactions to certain phrases, such as “short bus” or “good enough mother“, where my interpretation of the words doesn’t follow the usual pattern.  So words can be extremely powerful, but so can other kinds of communication.

Non-verbal communication is a challenge for people with autism spectrum disorders.  When you consider how much we communicate through our bodies, our clothes, our posture, our gestures, and (sigh!) eye gaze, it is a wonder we need to use words at all.  We do, of course, or I wouldn’t waste my breath encouraging my kids to ‘use their words’ at their every frustration.

At the advice of Pudding’s speech therapist, I recently bought a DVD teaching young kids about sign language to use with Cubby.  Every word they use he already knows, but he is nonetheless enthralled, and attempts the signs, and also has started gesturing along with songs such as ‘wheels on the bus’ that use finger plays or actions.  And because her school is out for summer, Pudding has been involved too.  Something pretty amazing is happening- she is paying attention.  Not just to the DVD, or music, but paying attention to what I’m doing with my body and trying to figure out what it means.  I’ve indulged in times with her when I’m completely silent, and she has to figure out my meaning without words.*  Instead of getting angry, which I was certain would be the case, she enjoys it.  And there’s more.  Her language has had a little boost.  Her eye gaze has improved.  But more importantly, her interactions have increased too, not just with me, but Daddy, her therapists, and most significantly of all: her brother.

I’m almost afraid to write of progress.  Pudding’s development is like climbing a pole, such hard work to move up, and so easy to slide back down again.  Also, I broke the sage advice of Dr. P of only trying one new therapy or intervention at a time, so I can’t say for sure what is causing this progress.  But, hey, this is progress.  I’m allowed to have a little celebration when it happens.

I went to the coffee shop with the kids yesterday.  I was positively reinforcing (not bribing, who said that?) the kids with juice boxes and snacks.  The kids were well behaved.  And by that, I mean that they were contained to one area, not playing with the door, not running into people, not pouring drinks, and smearing sugar and milk, and the myriad of other things they would do if left to their own devices.  They were still pretty loud and fidgety though.  The lady sitting close by trying to read her book gave a frown our way, indicating non-verbally, that we were disturbing her.  But Pudding communicated by flapping her hands that she was happy, and Cubby by dancing (to his own music), so I didn’t feel the need to move on.  And then, one of those rare instances of a genuine smile from another customer.  She was telling me it was okay, my kids were okay.  No words were necessary to tell me that, but it is a communication I always treasure.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

August 27, 2010 at 7:12 am